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BJP open to Kalam as President
Party rules out support for candidature of Pranab Mukherjee, Ansari
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 30
With consultations on the next Presidential nominee gathering momentum, the BJP today ruled out supporting the candidature of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee or Vice-President Hamid Ansari in case either of them is fielded by the Congress-led UPA government.

The party suggested that former President APJ Abdul Kalam could be its choice for the post. By doing so, the BJP hopes to be able to win over Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav as he had suggested the former President’s candidature during the NDA regime. Speaking out for the first time about the BJP’s game plan for the Presidential election, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said her party’s “basic objective is to challenge and defeat a Congress candidate in the forthcoming polls for the Rashtrapati Bhavan”.

Swaraj also ruled out the possibility of any compromise with the ruling coalition. It has been privately suggested that the BJP-headed NDA could support UPA’s Presidential nominee in return for its support for the Opposition’s Vice-Presidential candidate.

“There will be no quid pro quo,” she said. The BJP’s first priority, she said, was to develop a consensus among Opposition groups so that they could put up a joint candidate to defeat the Congress nominee.

It is attempting to wean away the ruling combine’s supporting parties such as the Trinamool Congress and Samajwadi Party, which have the numbers to tilt the balance in the election.

“We can have an understanding with non-Congress parties where we support their Presidential candidate and they support our Vice-Presidential candidate,” Swaraj said.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s name is being mentioned as the NDA’s choice for Vice-President. Though Badal is in agreement with the proposal, the Congress is wary of an NDA candidate becoming Vice-President.

The government, already in minority in the Rajya Sabha, would then be headed by an Opposition nominee as the Vice-President is the ex-officio chairman of the Upper House. Since the UPA and the NDA don’t have sufficient numbers in the electoral college to push their candidate through, they have to seek the support of regional parties that will pretty much determine the outcome of this poll.

On supporting Kalam, Swaraj said: “We will be happy to support Kalam if Mulayam Singh Yadav formally proposes his name.” Swaraj’s articulation of the BJP’s strategy comes a day after Defence Minister AK Antony met UPA ally and DMK chief M Karunanidhi in Chennai to build consensus on the Presidential candidate.

Mukherjee’s and Ansari’s names have been mentioned as the UPA’s choice. Congress president Sonia Gandhi has already met NCP chief and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar in this connection. She is expected to consult Trinamool chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee next week.





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