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Opposition divided over presidential poll.

New Delhi

The upcoming presidential election has ripped apart the opposition unity with deep cracks appearing in both the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Left Front.

The erstwhile ruling NDA, led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), failed to arrive at a consensus at its meeting yesterday (Thursday) with BJP announcing its support to the former Lok Sabha speaker Purno A Sangma, while the Janata Dal (United) followed Shiv Sena in announcing its support to the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) nominee Pranab Mukherjee for the top constitutional post.

Senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj announced her party's decision to support Sangma saying he is the most suitable candidate particularly after former president A P J Abdul Kalam decided not to contest.

"We held several formal and informal meetings, but a consensus could not be achieved. Two of our constituent parties are still not in favour of it, but we have decided we need to back a candidate," Swaraj said.

Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav, who is the NDA convenor, announced that his party is sticking to its stand of supporting Pranab Mukherjee.

"According to the present situation, our support is to Pranab Mukherjee, but we are not supporting Congress," Yadav said, adding that there was no threat to the NDA if the two parties did not agree on the presidential candidate.

Another NDA constituent Shiv Sena had already announced its support for Mukherjee after he called up the Sena chief Bal Thackeray and his son Uddhav Thackeray. Incidentally, Maharashtra-based Shiv Sena had gone against NDA in 2007 presidential election too as it opted to support fellow Maharashtrian Pratibha Patil to become the 12th President of the Republic.

The worst fears of political analysts that Mukherjee would create rift in various parties due to his good personal equations with leaders in various political parties seems to be coming true.

Besides the NDA, the close-knit Left Front also witnessed major disagreement. The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) saw heated debate between the powerful Bengal and Kerala lobbies. While the Bengal lobby advocated for support to a fellow Bengali Mukherjee, the Kerala lobby was opposed to supporting a Congress party leader.

The party ultimately settle the issue in favour of Mukherjee, but the Communist Party of India (CPI) announced its decision to abstain from voting. "Four Left parties differed on presidential poll issue. Two decided that they will support Pranab (Mukherjee) while two others will abstain," CPI leader A B Bardhan said after the Left Front meeting. The CPM hastened to clarify that their support was confined to Mukherjee and that they would continue to oppose the UPA.

Sangma who resigned as the primary member of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Thursday to challenge Mukherjee, thanked BJP and other parties for supporting his quest to become the first President of India from the tribal community. He said he would talk to the Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee again to seek her support.

"I have spoken to Mamata Banerjee. She requested me to support her candidate. Now that Kalam is out of race, I hope Mamata Banerjee will support me. I will talk to her again," Sangma said.

Sangma at the best is expected to give a symbolic fight to Mukherjee, who is seen as favourite to emerge victorious in July 19 presidential poll and take oath as the 13th President of India on July 25 due to support he is getting from parties even outside the UPA.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jun 21, 2012
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