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JD(U), Shiv Sena and CPM to back Pranab Mukherjee, BJP sticks to Sangma as President

PTI 22 Jun 2012, 11:01:34 IST
New Delhi, Jun 21: Left parties were today divided on the presidential election with CPM and Forward Bloc deciding to support UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee while CPI and RSP opting to abstain from the voting.

The four parties could not arrive at a consensus at an hour-long meeting here this evening attended by top leaders of the parties, including Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M), A B Bardhan (CPI), T J Chandrachoodan (RSP) and Debabrata Biswas (FB). 

"Two parties have declared they will support Pranab Mukherjee, two parties have decided they will abstain," Bardhan told reporters without elaborating.

Karat said his party has decided to support the candidature of 77-year-old Mukherjee as "in the present situation, he is the candidate for the post of President with the widest possible acceptance".

The CPI-M leader said support to Mukherjee did not mean backing for Congress and that his party will "resolutely fight" the "anti-people" policies of UPA government.

Forward Bloc General Secretary Debabrata Biswas said his party was not in favour of abstaining from the voting slated for July 19 for which the battle lines have been drawn between Mukherjee and P A Sangma.

RSP General Secretary T J Chandrachoodan said his party will abstain from the voting.

The presidential poll today split NDA further with BJP announcing support for P A Sangma and JD(U) backing UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee, becoming the second ally after Shiv Sena to break ranks with the Opposition coalition.

Leaders of BJP and JD(U) held separate press conferences within an hour of each other to announce support for rival candidates for the poll to be held on July 19, in which Mukherjee has a clear edge with 5.88 lakh out of nearly 11 lakh votes in his favour.

Sangma is expected to garner only 3.10 lakh votes. BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley said the party decided to support Sangma, whose candidature has been proposed by AIADMK and BJD, after trying unsuccessfully to evolve a consensus within NDA on it.

They noted that JD(U) and Shiv Sena had not agreed on supporting Sangma and instead backed Mukherjee but insisted that it will have no impact on the "mature" coalition of NDA.

"We regret we could not persuade our allies...We hope they will review their position," Jaitley said.

Swaraj said BJP would try to bring Trinamool, which broke ranks with UPA, also on board and talks were on for it.

Both Swaraj and Jaitley argued that it was BJP's duty, being the main Opposition, not to allow a "walkover" to UPA which did not "consult" it before announcing the candidature of Mukherjee.

Jaitley said the BJP could not support a government which is using "various manoeuvres", including investigative agencies, to rope in parties to stay in power.

Describing Sangma as "the country's tall leader" besides North East's "tallest leader", Swaraj appealed to Shiv Sena and JD-U to give up their opposition to his candidature.

Soon after, JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav announced support for Mukherjee and his party was against any contest after former President A P J Abdul Kalam refused to enter the fray.