Breaking its silence on the presidential election, the BJP has announced that it will not support either of the two choices of the Congress — Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Vice-President Hamid Ansari.
The Congress, which has initiated consultations with its allies, has indicated its preference for either of them.
Sources in the party said that if need be, in exchange for support to its presidential candidate, it would agree to a vice-presidential candidate from the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
The name that Congress sources offered on Monday was that of Shiromani Akali Dal chief Parkash Singh Badal. The presidential election in July will be followed by the vice-presidential election in August. The BJP would very much like to see Mr. Badal as Vice-President, but certainly not as part of a “deal” with the Congress.
The main Opposition party disclosed the broad parameters which would guide its strategy, after a meeting of the party brass in Parliament House.
As things stand, the BJP would neither propose a candidate of its choice nor strike a deal with the Congress, under which it would have to back its presidential candidate as a quid pro quo for that party's support to the vice-presidential nominee.
Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj said the Samajwadi Party had put out “feelers” mentioning the name of the former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. “We will support him if Dr. Kalam is willing to contest.”
Ms. Swaraj said the BJP would not back the candidature of Mr. Mukherjee as he was an active Congress leader or that of Mr. Ansari as he did not have the “stature.”
Explaining the rationale behind the party's decision, she said: “We are looking at the 2014 elections…”
Don't speculate: Pranab
When journalists asked Mr Mukherjee whether he was emerging as the consensus candidate, he said: “Oh my goodness...oh my goodness...” “Don't indulge in any speculation,” he said smiling, when asked whether his name was discussed during Defence Minister A. K. Antony's meeting with DMK chief M. Karunanidhi in Chennai on Sunday.