BJP to contest presidential poll, undecided on candidate (Lead)

June 19th, 2012 - 1:34 am ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, June 19 (IANS) A meeting of Bharatiya Janata Party’s top leaders Monday decided to put up a fight against UPA candidate, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in the presidential poll July 19, but they were still undecided on their candidate.

The candidate will be finalised in consultation with its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partners, said party sources. The date of the meeting has not been finalised yet.

Party leaders however remained tight-lipped over the discussions of the meeting and refused to talk to the press following the meet.

Former Lok Sabha Speaker P.A. Sangma was discussed as a possible opposition candidate, but no decision was taken, according to party sources.

Sangma is presently the only candidate in fray against Mukherjee, and is backed by AIADMK and Biju Janata Dal.

BJP member Ram Jethmalani has also announced that he will contest the poll, but BJP is not considering him as an alternate, a party leader said on condition of anonymity.

The meeting, at BJP chief Nitin Gadkari’s residence here, was also attended by party’s top leaders L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh, Ananth Kumar and Ram Lal.

The meeting comes on a day when former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam declared himself out of the race.

The announcement came as a setback to BJP which was trying hard to convince him. Advani’s close aide Sudheendra Kulkarni met Kalam twice over the issue, and Advani also called up the eminent scientist.

Stating that even if the contest is only symbolical, it is necessary for the opposition to prove its strength, a BJP leader said the party will now try to build a consensus over a candidate amidst allies.

“There is no hurry, we have plenty of time to decide on the candidate. Why should we be in haste?” a party leader said.

“We will try to build a larger consensus across the political spectrum among all non-UPA (United Progressive Alliance) parties. The discussions will take time,” the leader added.

The BJP has been thinking of backing Sangma but ally Shiv Sena is, however, against him.

On the other hand, Janata Dal-United, which is the second largest party in NDA after BJP, and Shironmani Akali Dal have expressed the view that a candidate should not be fielded against Mukherjee, as it will be difficult to win.

In the NDA meeting, the BJP will try to convince the allies on fielding a candidate.

“We are looking at the 2014 polls… not having a candidate may reflect that the BJP and NDA have surrendered,” another party leader said.

The BJP is also looking forward to expanding the NDA, and sees the presidential poll as an opportunity to start moving in that direction.

The party has also decided to try to bring Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee and YSR Congress founder Jaganmohan Reddy on its side, along with other smaller parties.

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