Odisha’s ruling BJD on Sunday decided to abstain from voting in the Vice-Presidential poll while key UPA ally Trinamool Congress indicated support for incumbent Hamid Ansari, who is placed comfortably for a win.

“After consultation with Parliament members and senior leaders, the party has decided to abstain from voting in the Vice-Presidential election,” BJD president and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik told reporters in Bhubaneswar.

Maintaining its earlier stance to keep equidistance from both the Congress-led UPA and the BJP-led NDA, Mr. Patnaik said his party MPs favoured not taking part in the election process.

The elections are scheduled to be held on August 7, 2012.

Members of both Houses of Parliament (Lok Sabha 545 and Rajya Sabha 245) form the electoral college and Mr. Ansari is expected to win comfortably.

The BJD, which was the first to name P.A. Sangma as its candidate for the Presidential polls, has 21 MPs, 14 in the Lok Sabha and seven in the Rajya Sabha.

Though the regional party strongly backed Mr. Sangma by projecting him as a prominent tribal and minority leader, the regional outfit had delayed its decision with regard to the Vice-Presidential election.

BJP-backed candidate and party MP Jaswant Singh had said he was confident that he will get the support of the BJD and the AIADMK whose chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa is yet to announce her stand.

In a significant move, Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee asked party MPs to attend the luncheon being hosted by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Monday in New Delhi in response to an invitation by the Congress leader.

“Trinamool Congress MPs will participate in the luncheon to be hosted by the UPA chairperson tomorrow ahead of the Vice-Presidential election,” Trinamool Congress parliamentary party leader in the Lok Sabha Sudip Bandyopadhyay told PTI in Kolkata.

Mr. Bandyopadhyay said the party would hold a meeting at 8 p.m. on Monday to take a decision regarding the Vice-Presidential poll and finalise the party’s strategy for the monsoon session of Parliament beginning August 8, 2012.

Mr. Bandyopadhyay said he had been instructed by Ms. Banerjee, to attend the luncheon.

Derek O’Brien, chief whip of the Trinamool Congress Parliamentary Party in the Rajya Sabha, said, “There will be a good participation of Trinamool Congress MPs at the luncheon. All party MPs who are staying in New Delhi will attend.”

Ms. Banerjee had kept up suspense over supporting the UPA Presidential nominee Pranab Mukherjee till the last minute and announced her party’s decision to support him just two days before the July 19, 2012 poll.


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