With the United Progressive Alliance declaring Hamid Ansari as its candidate for the post of vice president, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Saturday decided to go for a contest, but maintained that it will finalise its nominee after consulting National Democratic Alliance allies.
The BJP Core Group met in Delhi on Saturday evening after Ansari's candidature was announced by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
"We have decided to contest the vice presidential election. A meeting of NDA allies has been convened on July 16 to discuss the issue. We will announce our candidate after due deliberations and consulting our allies," BJP general secretary Ananth Kumar told reporters after the meeting.
While the main opposition had indicated that it will not give a "walkover" to Congress in the vice presidential poll, its reservations regarding Ansari since his conduct during the Lokpal Bill debate in Rajya Sabha on December 29, 2011, further contributed to the party's decision to contest the election, sources said.
Sources said BJP and NDA allies are mulling over the names of Janata Dal - United President Sharad Yadav and Najma Heptullah, who had unsuccessfully contested the VP elections against Ansari in 2007.
Suggestions of supporting Gopalkrishna Gandhi or Krishna Bose, whose names have been floated by the Trinamool Congress, were also made. The final decision will depend on whether TMC chief Mamata Banerjee fields any of the two as a vice presidential candidate. In case she abstains, NDA will go ahead with its own candidate.
In such a scenario, the poll may see a repeat of 2007, when Ansari had contested and won handsomely against Heptullah.
Though some BJP leaders had reportedly met Yadav and requested him to become a vice presidential candidate to put up a serious fight, he is likely to spike the proposal.
Shiromani Akali Dal chief Parkash Singh Badal and BJP leader Jaswant Singh were earlier keen on contesting the vice presidential poll if a quid pro quo with the UPA had come about, where the Opposition supported the Congress's Presidential candidate.
They are reportedly not keen any more as the numbers are stacked strongly in favour of Ansari.
Though NDA was a divided house in the presidential election with key allies Shiv Sena and JD-U pledging support to UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee, the coalition is likely to stand together on the vice presidential election.
Shiv Sena had conveyed to BJP that it will support the NDA candidate in the vice presidential poll. A final word from the party is expected in the NDA meeting on Monday. Shiv Sena is reportedly opposed to Ansari.
With Sharad Yadav's name in the fray -- albeit temporarily, say sources -- JD-U may also vote with the NDA. Bihar Chief Minister and JD-U leader Nitish Kumar had said earlier this week that his party has not yet decided about supporting Ansari.
Sources said if Heptullah is the NDA candidate, it would make Kumar's task easier. She is from the minority community and Kumar is actively wooing them to widen his support base.
Moreover, the NDA allies had voted for Heptullah in 2007 when she contested against Ansari.