The Left parties were on Thursday divided on the Presidential election with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Forward Bloc deciding to support United Progressive Alliance candidate Pranab Mukherjee while the Communist Party of India and the Revolutionary Socialist Party opting to abstain from the voting.

The four parties could not arrive at a consensus at an hour-long meeting in New Delhi on Thursday evening attended by top leaders of the parties, including Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury (CPI(M)), A.B. Bardhan (CPI), T.J. Chandrachoodan (RSP) and Debabrata Biswas (FB).

“Two parties have declared they will support Pranab Mukherjee, two parties have decided they will abstain,” Mr. Bardhan told reporters without elaborating.

Mr. Karat said his party has decided to support the candidature of 77-year-old Mr. Mukherjee as “in the present situation, he is the candidate for the post of President with the widest possible acceptance”.

The CPI(M) leader said support to Mr. Mukherjee did not mean backing for Congress and that his party will “resolutely fight” the “anti-people” policies of the UPA government.

Forward Bloc’s Mr. Biswas said his party was not in favour of abstaining from the voting slated for July 19, 2012 for which the battle lines have been drawn between Mr. Mukherjee and P.A. Sangma.

Mr. Chandrachoodan said his party, the RSP, will abstain from the voting.

Mr. Bardhan said the Left parties will remain united though they are taking different stands on Presidential poll issue.

“As far as Left Front is concerned, it will continue as ever, it will continue to be united as ever. This is only one single incident where there is a difference of opinion, a slight difference of opinion. We will continue our movements and struggles jointly,” he said.

The CPI(M)’s decision to support Mukherjee came after a meeting of the party’s Polit Bureau on Thursday morning in which the senior leaders deliberated on the issue.

Sources said one section of the party was for abstaining from the poll while another was for supporting Mr. Mukherjee. The section advocating abstention was of the view that they could not be seen voting for a Congress candidate.

They said Mr. Mukherjee had reached out to Mr. Karat on Tuesday seeking his party’s support but the CPI(M) leader had not given any commitment. Mr. Mukherjee had telephoned Mr. Karat as part of Congress exercise to get support from non-UPA parties.

Left parties account for around 51,000 votes in the electoral college of 10.98 lakh votes.

During the Left meeting, Forward Bloc backed Mr. Mukherjee, saying he has earned the “widest possible acceptance” and that it wanted to drive a “wedge” between Congress and Trinamool Congress. The party has two MPs and 12 MLAs.

G. Deverajan, national secretary of Forward Bloc, told PTI that the Left parties had earlier decided that the candidate should have the “widest possible acceptance” and in the present context, the Congress veteran has got support from the political spectrum. “Mukherjee has support from all sides. UPA is behind it.

NDA allies Shiv Sena and JD(U) are in his favour. Two non-UPA, non-NDA parties, the BSP and the SP are supporting him. Now he has the widest possible acceptance,” Mr. Deverajan said.

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