Its core group is anticipating a formal response from the grand old party

Buoyed by the cracks within the United Progressive Alliance on the Presidential election, the Bharatiya Janata Party has decided to play the wait-and-watch game before it firms up its strategy.

The ‘core group' of the BJP, which met here on the heels of the googly delivered by the Mulayam Singh-Mamata Banerjee duo, considered the latest developments in the Presidential election and decided to wait for a formal response from the Congress.

Emerging from the meeting, general secretary Ananth Kumar told journalists: “Two allies of the UPA — Trinamool Congress and the Samajwadi Party, which is supporting the grouping from outside — have rejected the two names proposed by the Congress and come up with three alternative names. The BJP believes the Congress should respond.”

NDA to meet

Mr. Kumar said a meeting of the National Democratic Alliance would be held to finalise its strategy on the Presidential and Vice-Presidential elections, but only after the Congress took a final view.

Notwithstanding its articulated position, the BJP has reasons to be smug over the apparent division within the UPA. There was a perception in the BJP-led NDA that the grouping allowed the UPA to gain the upper hand in the run-up to the Presidential election.

With the new twist, the NDA is back in the game even if it has to play second fiddle to other parties. Significantly, senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh called on Mulayam Singh on Tuesday amid speculation that he had sought the SP supremo's backing for his Vice-Presidential candidature.

Kalam favoured

Of the three names floated by the SP chief and the West Bengal Chief Minister — Somnath Chatterjee, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Manmohan Singh — the BJP is more than happy to back the candidature of the former President.

Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj actually went on record, towards the end of the budget session in the third week of May, that the BJP would back the candidature of Mr. Kalam if the SP mooted the proposal. But the talk of Mr. Kalam as a candidate went cold after the SP then ruled out the possibility. Of the other two names mooted by Mr. Yadav and Ms. Banerjee, the BJP would not support the candidature of either the Prime Minister or the former Lok Sabha Speaker.

While the BJP would have no reservations about the choice of Mr. Kalam, it has to keep in the mind the sensitivities of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Biju Janata Dal that have sponsored the candidature of another former Lok Sabha Speaker, P.A. Sangma. The BJP would not like to go against the wishes of any potential ally before the 2014 general election.

Prior to the latest developments, there was division within the NDA on the Presidential election. While a section was in favour of fielding its own candidate, another was of the view that the NDA should consider a quid pro quo with the UPA. It would entail the NDA supporting the UPA Presidential candidate and the UPA backing its nominee for Vice-President.

Playing it safe

The BJP has been extremely cautious on the issue after the remarks made by Ms. Swaraj on April 30 — that it would not support the candidature of Pranab Mukherjee, as he was a Congress leader, and Vice-President Hamid Ansari, as he lacked ‘stature' for the post — were resented by several parties in the NDA.

There have been suggestions that senior Akali Dal Leader Parkash Singh Badal has been sounded as a possible Vice-Presidential candidate by some quarters in the UPA. Mr. Badal will have a chance only if the NDA agrees to back the candidate of the UPA in a quid pro quo.

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