Patna, June 16: The ruling JD(U) today hinted at supporting Pranab Mukherjee as the presidential candidate at the NDA meeting tomorrow amid reports that the alliance was divided on the issue.
“Pranab has five decades of illustrious parliamentary career. He has been a capable leader and impeccable parliamentarian all through. He is the most deserving candidate who should be supported in his venture to leave active politics to serve the nation as its constitutional head,” JD(U) national general secretary Shivanand Tiwary told The Te-legraph ahead of the NDA meeting.
Tiwary was cautious to clarify that he had given his personal opinion on Mukherjee. Sources, however, revealed that Tiwary reflected chief minister Nitish Kumar’s “wish” in particular and overwhelming opinion of the party in general. Unlike the BJP, which at the outset stated that a “Congressman was not acceptable as the President”, Nitish from the very beginning has been talking about “consensus” on the presidential candidate.
A day before Congress chief Sonia Gandhi formally announced the present finance minister as the UPA’s candidate for the top post, Nitish had reiterated that his party favoured consensus on president election.
And the Bihar chief minister did not deviate from his stand even after the Bengal chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, made a strong pitch for former President APJ Abdul Kalam, who incidentally had luncheon meeting with Nitish yesterday.
Moreover, the Bihar chief minister’s pronounced affinity for Kalam did not come in the way of his silently pursuing an approach different from his ally, the BJP, on the issue.
It is worth recalling here that the JD(U) was peeved at the leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, declaring last month that a Congressman was “not acceptable” as the President to the BJP. Nitish himself preferred to stay behind the curtain but the JD(U) national president, Sharad Yadav, had attacked Sushma for making “unilateral” announcement without consulting other NDA partners on the issue.
The JD(U)’s decision to “build consensus” around Mukherjee is believed to be a part of Nitish’s well worked out move to show him “different” from the BJP amid the reports of distance fast growing between the two ruling alliance partners in the state.
The rising clout of his Gujarat counterpart, Narendra Modi, vis a vis the RSS’s “covert” backing to the western state chief minister is believed to be the “root” of the growing chasm between the JD(U) and BJP in the state.
Nitish despite running his government with the BJP has tried to show him and his party “different” particularly since 2009 Lok Sabha polls by reaching out to the Muslims with more zeal and taking a plethora of measures to woo the minorities in a big way.
“Nitish and the JD(U)’s support to Pranab da should in no way be interpreted as the chief minister’s move to part ways with the BJP and join the UPA,” said a senior JD(U) leader. “It simply amounts to giving the message that the JD(U) has begun thinking differently from the BJP on crucial national issues,” the leader added. The JD(U)’s vote value is over 42,000.
BJP member Ram Jethmalani tried to inject fresh element, saying he would contest against Mukherjee if the NDA supported the UPA nominee.