‘Presidential candidate was not discussed at NDA meeting'

Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav, who is also the convener of the NDA, is unhappy over BJP leader Sushma Swaraj's announcement that her party is opposed to both names floated by the Congress for the presidential election.

Ms. Swaraj, who is the Leader of the Opposition, said on Monday that the BJP did not approve of the candidature of either Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee or Vice-President Hamid Ansari. Her point was that while Mr. Mukherjee was a Congress leader, Mr. Ansari did not have the “stature.”

Mr. Yadav told journalists here on Tuesday that whatever Ms. Swaraj had said was the BJP's opinion, and not his party's. “The issue was not discussed at any NDA meeting. The BJP has not discussed the issue with us.”

That Ms. Swaraj's announcement has not gone down well with some other NDA allies also is evident from Mr. Yadav pointing to Shiromani Akali Dal leader Sukhbir Singh Badal's statement that the issue had not been considered by the NDA as yet.

It is not clear what prompted Ms. Swaraj to air her party's views in public, given that the BJP has lost no opportunity in the past few months to attack the Congress for its disregard of the UPA allies in decision-making.

Mr. Yadav said the country was in bad shape. “Everybody needs to be on the side of caution on this issue.”

The BJP acknowledged that Ms. Swaraj's views were those of the party and not of the NDA. Denying any difference in the NDA, BJP spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy said Ms. Swaraj had also made it known that the issue was yet to be considered by the NDA. What she had said was that the BJP would accept a candidate chosen by the larger Opposition, including the NDA.

He said Ms. Swaraj had maintained that she would be happy if there was consensus on the presidential candidate supported by the larger Opposition, and on the BJP candidate for Vice-President.

Ms. Swaraj had said the party was open to the idea of backing the former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam if parties like the Samajwadi Party proposed his name.

Meanwhile, the Left parties are scheduled to meet here on Friday to discuss the presidential election.

Sources in the Left said there was not much enthusiasm for Mr. Kalam. In fact, it was over Mr. Kalam's candidature that the People's Front, a formation of the four Left parties, broke with the Samajwadi Party, after its president Mulayam Singh backed him.

CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat said here that the party had not thought of any name, but hoped that discussions with other parties could lead to an understanding. CPI general secretary S. Sudhakar Reddy said that if there was consensus on a person of integrity, the Left would not be averse to supporting him. He indicated that the Left was not working to sponsor a candidate, but his party favoured a politician to be put up.

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