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BJP rules out backing Pranab, Ansari in Presidential race

Last updated on: April 30, 2012 20:11 IST

Giving a new turn to the Presidential race, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday ruled out supporting Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Vice-President Hamid Ansari or any other candidate who may be put up by the Congress but is open to supporting anyone chosen by the non-Congress parties.

"We will not accept any Congress candidate, including Pranab Mukherjee, for the President's post," she told reporters in New Delhi.

The names of Mukherjee and Ansari have been doing the round as being among the probables in the Presidential election.

Asked about Ansari, Swaraj said he does not have the stature to be President and hence BJP will not support him.

She also categorically said there will be no understanding with the Congress under which National Democratic Alliance would support United Progressive Alliance's Presidential candidate and get their support in return for the vice-president's post.

"We are looking at the 2014 elections and do not want to give the impression that we have any truck with the Congress," Swaraj said.

She said BJP was gauging the mood of the UPA allies on the Presidential elections.

On whether a non-Congress candidate like A P J Abdul Kalam, Swaraj said BJP is open to the idea.

"We can have an understanding with non-Congress parties where we support their Presidential candidate and they support our vice-presidential candidate," she said.

"We will contest to win. We will work out an arithmetic," she said.

However, Swaraj did not reveal whom the BJP-led NDA will field for the post of President and vice-president in case of a contest.

NDA sources have maintained that Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal can be their candidate.

However, since the NDA does not have the numbers to get its President in Rashtrapati Bhawan, the alliance is looking at possibilities of winning the vice-presidential election.

Badal is reportedly in agreement with this proposal, sources said.

Swaraj's counterpart in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley had recently called on Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa in Chennai to discuss the Presidential elections. She is likely to support the NDA.

Her main political adversary Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam is with the UPA and its chief M Karunanidhi held a meeting with Congress emissary and Defence Minister A K Antony on Sunday on the issue.

According to media reports, Antony had proposed the names of Mukherjee and Ansari as possible candidates for the post of President to Karunanidhi.

NDA and the non-Congress parties, including UPA constituents like Trinamool Congress, are aware that the Congress does not have the numbers to get its candidate elected for the post of President.

These parties are said to be working on putting up a non-political candidate like Kalam as it would help in building a consensus.

Ansari may not be acceptable to UPA ally TMC as he was the choice of Left parties when he picked up for the Vice President's post.

NDA is hopeful about Badal being acceptable - at least for the vice president post- because of the goodwill for him even among some of the non-NDA parties.

However, Congress is wary of having an NDA candidate heading the Rajya Sabha where the government is in a minority.

On his part Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, whose name along with Ansari has been doing the rounds, parried questions on his candidature saying it is speculation and asked the media not to indulge in it.

Congress-led UPA with 42 per cent votes and BJP-led NDA with 28 per cent votes can get a candidate agreeable to them elected without support from other parties who are in neither formations.

"Oh my goodness...oh my goodness..," a smiling Mukherjee told reporters outside Parliament House when asked about his being projected as consensus choice for President's post.

Congress also sought to distance itself from the speculation over the names of possible Presidential candidates, saying the formal process to choose the next

President is yet to take off.

Meanwhile, Nationalist Congress Party member and Union Minister Agatha Sangma suggested that Mukherjee should remain in Finance Ministry and pitched for her father and senior leader P A Sangma saying a tribal and a Christian have never been President.

"Sangma, not as my father...but according to me he is very an able Parliamentarian. Whatever role he has been given, he has played it very well. So according to me, he is very able person and politician.

"The community he represents has never been represented as President--be it a tribal or christian communities," Agatha Sangma, who is the Minister of State for Rural Development, told reporters outside Parliament House.

BJP took digs at Congress for reaching out to DMK and other allies to build a consensus on a Presidential candidate.

"Congress has shed its arrogance and is meeting its allies. Even if it is on the pretext of presidential elections, NCP Chief Sharad Pawar and Sonia Gandhi have met after a long time," BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said.

He said Congress-led UPA had not held any formal talks with the opposition on the issue.

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