CPI(M) and Forward Bloc back Pranab; CPI, RSP to abstain from voting
The Presidential ‘race’ is over for all practical purposes even before it has begun. Barring an unforeseeable situation, UPA nominee and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee will be sworn in as the First Citizen on July 25.
Ironically, despite this certainty, the Election Commission will have to perform all rituals associated with a contest, thanks to the insistence of the BJD and AIADMK-sponsored candidate P.A. Sangma on remaining in the fray. The former Lok Sabha Speaker chose to quit his party (NCP, a constituent of the UPA) rather than withdraw from the contest.
Meanwhile, after days of dithering, the BJP and the Akali Dal announced their support for Mr. Sangma on Thursday. It would ensure him at least 28 per cent of the votes in the Electoral College as against over 61 per cent guaranteed for Mr. Mukherjee.
For the BJP, the last-minute decision has come at a cost. Its inability to forge consensus within the NDA, after the Janata Dal (United) and the Shiv Sena refused to toe the line, would haunt the party for at least a few weeks. Senior BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley were at pains to emphasise that the division within the NDA would have no bearing on the alliance as such.
It is the same story in the Left. Of the four parties, the CPI(M) and the Forward Bloc have decided to vote for Mr. Mukherjee and the CPI and the RSP would abstain. While the CPI(M) and the Forward Bloc reason that they are backing Mr. Mukherjee as he is the ‘most acceptable candidate in the present situation’, the other two say they would not like to be seen on the UPA side.
This Presidential election perhaps is unusual, having divided all the three political alliances. The Trinamool Congress, which broke ranks with the UPA, is yet to announce its decision. Some others like the Telugu Desam, with which the CPI(M) is in touch, are expected to decide on Friday.
It has been the UPA all the way once it nominated Mr. Mukherjee. The suspense and drama that accompanied the proposal of three alternative names including the former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, made by the Trinamool and the Samajwadi Party lasted barely for 24 hours.
At a news conference here, Ms. Swaraj and Mr. Jaitley argued that as the principal Opposition, it was the BJP’s duty not to allow a “walkover” for the Congress, which did not even consult it.
The two leaders contended that the BJP could not support a government which was using “various manoeuvres,” including investigative agencies, to rope in parties to stay in power. Ms. Swaraj described Mr. Sangma as “the country’s tall leader” as also the northeast’s “tallest leader.”
Asking the media not to read much into the differences within the NDA, she recalled that the Shiv Sena voted for the UPA’s Pratibha Patil during the last Presidential election, though the NDA opposed her candidature, but the party still remained in the alliance.