New Delhi(PTI): NDA and Left parties split today over the Presidential poll as some of their constituents pledged support to UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee who appears set for a runaway victory over P A Sangma, backed by BJP, AIADMK and BJD.
As momentum for the July 19 poll picked up, BJP announced support for Sangma while its major ally JD(U) expressed backing for Mukherjee, becoming the second ally after Shiv Sena to break ranks with the NDA.
Showing deep divisions between BJP and JD(U) over the issue, leaders of the two parties held separate press conferences within an hour of each other to announce support for rival candidates.
The poll to elect the country’s 13th President also divided Left parties, with CPI-M and Forward Bloc deciding to support Mukherjee while CPI and RSP opting to abstain from the voting.
Mukherjee, with support of JD(U), CPI(M) and Forward Bloc, now has at least 6.29 lakh assured votes out of nearly 11 lakh votes, well beyond the required number of 5,49,442.
Sangma, with support from NDA is expected to garner only 3.10 lakh votes but the possibility of some cross-voting was not ruled out as the exercise will be conducted through secret ballot.
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.
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 its candidate.
Soon after, JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav announced support for Mukherjee and said his party was against any contest after former President A P J Abdul Kalam refused to enter the fray.