NCP and BJP caught unawares as presidential race takes a surprise turn
New Delhi: There was an unexpected twist in the presidential election story when former Lok Sabha speaker and NCP member P.A.Sangma has openly pitched himself as a candidate and got two key endorsement from two non-NDA, non-UPA parties, the Biju Janata Dal and the AIADMK. The approval has come staright from BJD supremo and Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik and AIADMK general secretary and Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha.
The interesting fact is Sangma's party leader Sharad Pawar had rejected the idea of Sangma for president, and NCP is part of the UPA and it is part of the government. Sangma's daughter Agatha, also of NCP, is a junior minister. Sangma may have to come out of NCP because his party is likely to support a Congress and a UPA candidate.
So far, the names of finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and vice president Hamid Ansari have been floating around as possible Congress and UPA candidates, while the the BJP and NDA seemed a little lost especially after disowning BJP leader Sushma Swaraj's categorical statement that the BJP would not support either Mukherjee or Ansari because the BJP intended to oppose Congress.
This time too the NDA seems to have been overtaken by the initiative of Sangma, BJD and AIADMK. They may end up supporting Sangma because BJD and AIADMK are quite keen to oppose the Congress candidate.
The buzz is that the BJD had already sounded out BJP about Sangma and it would be a matter of time before the official endorsement comes from the main opposition party. But it is clear that the BJP is in an embarrassing position because it had failed to take the initiative and it will end up being a passive supporter of a consensus opposition candidate.
Swaraj had earlier hinted that the BJP would not like to come with its own choice of a presidential candidate because then the non-UPA unity would be broken. For example, the Left parties would support an opposition candidate if the initiative came from a non-BJP party. So, Sangma's name being popped by BJD and AIADMK would keep the doors open for the Left.
There is also the possiblity that mercurial Mamata Banerjee, Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal chief minister, might be tempted to support Sangma, who was briefly associated with the party at its inception. But it may be difficult for TMC to remain in UPA government and support an opposition candidate unless she resorts to a conscience vote.
The presidential race is getting to become interesting though it will hit the feverish pitch only sometime in the middle of June. The election is due in July.