New Delhi: Three days after the UPA named Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as its Presidential nominee, the NDA is yet to decide on its candidate. Key NDA allies are divided over putting up a candidate against
Pranab. However, BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi denied any differences in the NDA. "NDA is united, there is no confusion, discussions are still on," he said.
Meanwhile, Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee remains firm on former President APJ Abdul Kalam, keeping former Lok Sabha Speaker PA Sangma waiting.
After two meetings and days of back channel talks, the NDA is undecided and confused. Sharp divisions within the NDA emerged on Sunday over the decision of supporting Pranab Mukherjee's candidature for the post of President and there was also lack of clarity on extending support to PA Sangma.
NDA spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said that they will take a final call on the issue only after having consultations with the chief ministers of the NDA ruled states.
Sources said that senior BJP leaders LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj were keen on a contest against Pranab. The JD(U), on the other hand, insisted that Pranab shouldn't be challenged.
Meanwhile, another ally the Shiv Sena on Sunday met in Mumbai and authorised its chief Bal Thackeray to take a decision as they are waiting for the NDA to finalise their stand.
At a two-hour meeting of the NDA which was skipped by Shiv Sena, JD(U) leader Shivanand Tiwari is believed to disfavoured a contest against Pranab because of his stature, reflecting a divide in the coalition.
There was also a strong view that supporting Sangma would help NDA win back AIADMK and BJD. However, to finetune this, talks should be held with leaders of these parties before any decision is reached, sources said.
After the meeting at BJP leader LK Advani's residence, NDA convener Sharad Yadav told reporters, "Various leaders put forth their views in detail. More discussions are required in this regard to arrive at the right decision.
"LK Advani will talk to Chief Ministers of NDA-ruled states and all others. NDA will meet sometime later again to take a decision in this regard. Those outside (Delhi) will also be consulted."
Sources said that a part of the NDA felt it was better to wait and see what the Left's stance was going to be. The parties felt that if the Left too was not in favour of the UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee, then the NDA could think of getting its support for PA Sangma, said sources.
Meanwhile, NCP leader PA Sangma is in no mood to give up just yet. The tribal leader who is backed by the BJD and AIADMK will reach out to two more parties for support on Moneday. He is expected to call on Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief Parkash Singh Badal. He is also expected to meet Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray.
Even as the BJP continues to debate on who to back for the President's post, the RSS is rooting for APJ Abdul Kalam. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has praised the former president, calling him a good man. However, he said that the RSS is not trying to influence the NDA's decision.
(With additional information from PTI)