New Delhi, June 21: Confident that Pranab Mukherjee’s victory is a foregone conclusion, the Congress today poured scorn on the BJP for latching on to a “borrowed candidate” merely to “play political games”.
The barb followed declarations of support for Mukherjee from the CPM, Janata Dal (United) and the Shiv Sena, which appeared to reduce Purno Sangma’s challenge to an academic exercise.
The Congress also dismissed the BJP’s complaints about not having been consulted on Mukherjee’s nomination as a “childlike grumble” and claimed the main Opposition party had been itching to force a contest anyway.
“Sushma Swaraj says: ‘We, the BJP, decided to support Sangma because the Congress didn’t do prior consultations’. Arun Jaitley said the BJP wanted to maintain its ‘prime Opposition’ character. Now we don’t know whether Sushma’s pique or Jaitley’s tact swayed the decision,” a senior Congress leader told The Telegraph.
Congress media cell chairperson Janardan Dwivedi alleged: “There is no principle, no ethics, no democratic value involved in the (BJP’s) decision to back Sangma. The BJP is only playing political games.”
He added: “There is no comparison between Mukherjee and Sangma. The nation knows it and so does the BJP. Worse, Sangma was not even the BJP’s candidate ---- they have borrowed him because their candidate, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, chose not to contest.”
Dwivedi dismissed the BJP’s charge of lack of consultations.
“We had to first decide among our allies. As soon as we selected Mukherjee, both the Prime Minister and the Congress president reached out to every party,” he said.
“We want to ask the BJP why they were discussing Kalam’s name when the government had proposed Mukherjee’s name. And when their original choice Kalam refused to contest, they should have considered Mukherjee but they were determined to fight.”
Many Congress leaders made fun of the BJP for falling back on a “UPA defector”. They wanted to know how the BJP planned to protect its “prime Opposition character” by backing a onetime Congressman who was put in the ring by two non-NDA parties, the AIADMK and the Biju Janata Dal.
Some Congress leaders also argued that Sangma exemplified what the BJP claimed to hate most: dynasty politics. While Sangma’s daughter is a minister of state in the Union cabinet, he and his two sons are all members of the Meghalaya Assembly.
Sangma, a Christian who rose up the ranks in the Congress, had been very close to Sonia Gandhi before he and some others rebelled and walked out of the party over her foreign origins.
He had had stints in various party bodies such as the Youth Congress and the working committee, and has been a former Meghalaya chief minister, eight-time MP and Speaker of the Lok Sabha.
Some Congress leaders feel the BJP’s decision to support Sangma will rile many of its own legislators, particularly the Hindutva hawks, since Sangma is a Christian with known liberal views. His best-known speech in Parliament was one in which he denounced nuclear weapons.
“We expected deep fissures in the Opposition camp over Mukherjee’s candidature. This has happened, with even the famous Left unity being in tatters. We are sure there will be cross-voting from within the BJP, too,” a Congress official said.