NATIONAL

Awaiting Third Front decision, NDA defers meeting

Neena Vyas

Vajpayee expected to persuade Third Front to support Shekhawat

If he contests as independent, BJP will have to garner as much support as possible A section of NDA does not want Opposition vote to split

NEW DELHI: The National Democratic Alliance has postponed its meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, to June 18, awaiting the Third Front decision on the July 19 presidential poll.

As there is time till June 30 for filing nominations, the process of selecting a candidate could take some more time.

Senior party leaders, including Bharatiya Janata Party president Rajnath Singh, met at the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's residence on Tuesday evening. And on Wednesday an expanded group of senior party leaders met to review the situation.

The decision to postpone the NDA meeting was announced by Mr. Singh late on Tuesday. He said there were reports of Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat wanting to contest as independent. If that happens, the BJP will be left with no option other than supporting him. BJP leaders said the party's task would then be garnering as much support as it could for Mr. Shekhawat. Mr. Vajpayee is expected to persuade Third Front leaders to support Mr. Shekhawat.

Consensus

However, some NDA partners want to see whether the United Progressive Alliance would make any effort to build consensus on the presidential candidate. There is also a view in a section of the NDA that the alliance should make efforts to build a consensus within the Opposition and the Third Front. Otherwise, Opposition vote will split, making it easy for the UPA candidate, it is felt.

The NDA strategy, it seems, will count on second preference votes in the event of the UPA candidate not mustering a clear majority of more than 50 per cent of the first preference votes.

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