Ranchi, June 21: BJP allies, JMM and Ajsu, held their cards close to their chest in the run-up to the presidential polls on a day former Lok Sabha Speaker P.A. Sangma emerged as the Opposition candidate to be fielded against the UPA’s Pranab Mukherjee.
During the afternoon, senior BJP MP and leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj tried to contact both JMM chief Shibu Soren and Ajsu president Sudesh Mahto, but neither was willing to reveal to the media whom they would support as the next President of India.
JMM core committee secretary Vinod Pandey confirmed that Swaraj tried repeatedly to call Soren while he was travelling in the Chandil area, but could not speak to him due to poor network connectivity. Soren, too, tried calling back, but to no avail.
“The JMM core committee meeting will be held at Guruji’s Morabadi residence on June 24, where a formal decision on our role in the presidential elections is likely to be taken. Congress nominee Pranab Mukherjee has already approached us for support and we are considering his proposal,” Pandey said.
Ajsu chief Sudesh Mahto would not confirm whether Swaraj spoke to him. But he iterated there should be a consensus candidate for the presidential polls.
“I said this to Pranab Mukherjee too. Also, I cannot decide on my own who our MLAs should vote for during the presidential elections. We will wait for a few more days and then hold a meeting to discuss the issue,” he added.
While the JMM has 18 MLAs and three MPs, Ajsu has six MLAs.
Babulal Marandi’s JVM, with 11 MLAs and two MPs, has already pledged support to Mukherjee. The Marxist Coordination Committee (MCC) will follow the other Left parties who seemed divided over the issue.
The CPI-ML (Liberation), which has one MLA in Jharkhand, will hold a politburo meeting in Delhi on Saturday to decide its stand. But, the party is unlikely to support Mukherjee. “Pranab Mukherjee may have been a great saviour for the Congress party in its worst times, but what has he done for the country despite being a Union minister for the last several decades? As finance minister, what has he done to check soaring prices?” asked party MLA Vinod Kumar Singh.
Most of the Independents may have a soft corner for Mukherjee, but so far, neither the Congress nor the BJP has approached them.
“In my opinion, Mukherjee is a towering personality and there should be a consensus candidate,” commented Panki MLA Videsh Singh.
Although Singh has been supporting the Arjun Munda government in the Assembly, he voted for the Congress during the last Rajya Sabha biennials. Mandar MLA Bandhu Tirkey also expressed his “deep rooted” respect for Mukherjee, but did not clarify whether he would vote for him.