Hopes for deal with ruling alliance on Vice-President

Barely 48 hours after the BJP-led NDA appeared to be in the Presidential election game again, things have taken a different turn for the alliance. Such has been the dramatic turn of events, that some leaders of the NDA are inclined to consider the appeal made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to support the candidature of Mr. Mukherjee.

NDA leaders concede that after the UPA managed to muster the required numbers to provide for the smooth election of its Presidential nominee, and feelers from quarters close to the former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, revealed that he wasn't prepared for a contest, their alliance can, at best, force a token contest.

A contest for the sake of contest could become inevitable in the event of the UPA insisting on its nominee even for the post of Vice-President, for which election is due in August.

Given the emerging scenario, the dilemma of some of the constituents on the strategy that the alliance should follow was evident at a meeting of the NDA that was held several hours before the UPA meeting. According to a leader who was present at the deliberations, the JD(U) cautioned against any hasty action.

As things stand, the NDA may have no choice but to support the candidature of the former Lok Sabha Speaker, P.A. Sangma, sponsored by the AIADMK and the BJD, as the UPA hasn't so for made any offer on the Vice-Presidential post. It could become a tricky question, particularly for the BJP, if Mr. Sangma insists on staying in the fray.

Sources in the BJP maintained that the party would have to tread carefully on the preferences of potential allies like the AIADMK and the BJD for the 2014 general elections. After his meeting with the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Thursday in Chennai, the Working Chairman of the NDA and senior BJP leader, L. K. Advani, had said that they had agreed to ‘co-ordinate' their approach on the Presidential polls.

At a news conference held here immediately after the NDA leaders meeting, Mr. Advani said the alliance would keep all its options, including a ‘quid-pro-quo' with the UPA, open. It means that NDA would expect the UPA to support its nominee for the Vice-Presidential post.

Significantly, Mr. Advani invoked the name of Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj to suggest that the NDA had already made the suggestion to the UPA. The remarks of Ms. Swaraj that the BJP cannot support Mr. Mukherjee, as he is a Congress leader, and that of the Vice-President Hamid Ansari, as he doesn't ‘have the same stature', had antagonised some of the constituents of the NDA.

Convener of the NDA and JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav is believed to have prevailed upon the alliance to refrain from being guided by the public posturing of SP and TMC, and wait for a clear picture to emerge before taking any decision.

He made it a point to clarify to the leaders that nothing should be read into the lunch hosted by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in Patna. It had led to speculation that the NDA was supporting the former President.

Mr. Advani was very matter of fact on the candidature of Mr. Sangma. “When I met Ms. Jayalalithaa yesterday [on Thursday], she said she wanted the NDA to support Sangma. I told her that I respect Sangma. I know him. He has been a good speaker. He belongs to the North East. But I will have to consult the NDA,” he said.

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