New Delhi: Reconciling with division within NDA over presidential poll, BJP today announced its support to PA Sangma to pit him against UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee. The party, which failed to persuade allies like Shiv Sena and JD-U to support Sangma, argued that it was its duty as the main Opposition party not to allow a “walkover” to Congress which did not “consult” it.
Announcing the decision at a press conference, BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley said the main opposition party could not support a government which is using “various manoeuvres”, including investigative agencies, to rope in parties to stay in power.
“BJP has decided to support the candidature of Sangma, whose candidature has been proposed by AIADMK and BJD,” Swaraj said.
Describing Sangma as “the country’s tall leader” as also North East’s “tallest leader”, she appealed to allies like Shiv Sena and JD-U to give up their opposition to his candidature.
Swaraj and Jaitley regretted that BJP could not persuade its allies and have a consensus in the NDA over the issue but insisted that it would have no impact on the “mature” coalition.
To press her point, she noted that Shiv Sena had earlier also voted for UPA nominee Pratibha Patil during the last Presidential poll even though NDA had opposed her candidature but still remained part of the alliance.
Swaraj and Jaitley said BJP was trying to bring Trinamool Congress on board but refused to reveal how it was being done.
Swaraj said, “Definitely we will try and bring her (Mamata) on board,” while Jaitely said, “We will always keep trying to bring everybody on board.”
“Mamataji is a very serious and an experienced politician. She has taken up a firm position. It is for her to decide. We hope the logical pursuit of what she started should be ready to support the opposition candidate,” said Jaitley.
With some allies not agreeing to support Sangma’s candidature, Jaitley said, “It will not have any effect on NDA. NDA will continue as it is. We have talked with all allies. We hope allies will review their position, but even if they don’t, we will admit that on one issue there was no one voice. We regret we could not persuade our allies.”
On this Swaraj said, “NDA has also a lot inherent strength to take along various allies…NDA is a very mature alliance while keeping various allies together. There is no question of NDA breaking up.”
The two leaders said the main opposition party, which also has the total support of its ally Shiromani Akali Dal, was trying to make a contest in the Presidential poll in the interest of democracy.
“In a democracy election is mandatory. There is nothing in Constitution that it should be through consensus. We will not give walkover to Congress. We will contest,” Swaraj said.
Jaitley, on the other hand said, “The idea of an election is integral to democracy, it is not alien to democracy.”
He hoped that a major part of the electorate will support Sangma and charged the Congress and UPA of having distanced itself from the common man.
“They have been alienated from the common man,” he said.
Jaitley said another factor that weighed on the BJP in contesting the Presidential poll was that UPA had no prior consultation with the opposition.
“The opposition was only informed after the announcement of its candidate and requested to fall in line. Many have fallen in line and yet many have refused to oblige… We decided not to fall in line,” said Jaitley.
The two leaders termed Sangma as a “good” candidate and brushed aside talks that he was a Congressman.
“Sangma is no longer a Congressman. Now he has even left NCP,” said Swaraj.