Defending his party’s decision to support the Presidential poll contest, BJP leader L K Advani today said the government has to build consensus on the issue and the UPA dispensation made no such effort as it sought support for Pranab Mukherjee only after announcing his candidature.

In his latest blog posting, Advani today said it is “fashionable” these days in political circles to say that election to the high Constitutional office of President should be unanimous and based on consensus between government and the Opposition.

“This question is often hurled at us in the BJP as if by deciding to support P A Sangma, sponsored by two eminent Chief Ministers against Congress’ Pranab Mukherjee, we are doing something improper. I hold that the answer to this question depends entirely on the attitude of the ruling party”, Advani said.

Recounting the course of events, Advani said he had received a phone call from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking his party’s support for Mukherjee within minutes of UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi announcing his candidature.

“My comment was: ‘You are now only informing us; would it not have been better if you had consulted the Opposition before making the announcement?’ His reaction was: ‘Well, it is never too late to mend’,” Advani said.

Advani, who is also the BJP Parliamentary Party Chief, said he had cordial relations with Mukherjee which go back a long way. He recalled that shortly after the PM’s phone call, he had also received a call from Mukherjee. Advani said though Mukherjee did not ask for support, he reminiscenced how since 1970 the two have been together in Parliament.

“I well remember how warm and cordial our interaction was not just for that day, but has been for all these years”, Advani said in his blog.

Advani maintained that of the 13 Presidential polls till now, there has been a consensus only once- in 1977 when post-Emergency the ruling Janata Party’s Presidential nominee Neelam Sanjiva Reddy was elected unopposed.

“In all other cases there was an election - even where the ruling party’s candidate was of the stature and eminence of Dr Rajendra Prasad, Dr Radhakrishnan or Dr Zakir Hussain”, Advani said.

Taking a jibe at the Congress, the senior BJP leader said for several decades after Independence, it’s vote share in the electoral college was “so overwhelming that I presume they never even thought of consulting the Opposition“.

He pointed out that the NDA had acted in complete contrast to this when in 2002 as the ruling coalition it thought of fielding A P J Abdul Kalam as its candidate for Presidentship.

“(Atal Bihari) Vajpayee spoke to Soniaji and Mulayam Singh and brought them on board to support the NDA candidate. It was the left front, however, that chose to put up Lakshmi Sahgal against our nominee. Sahgal secured around one lakh votes as against over nine lakhs polled by Dr Kalam”, Advani said.

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