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NDA to fight, Jaswant on list

New Delhi, July 15: The NDA today decided to contest the Vice-President’s election and is expected to choose its candidate tomorrow at a meeting attended by Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav and Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut.

BJP sources said the party was likely to propose Jaswant Singh’s name at the meeting.

L.K. Advani has sponsored the Darjeeling MP’s name but a party lobby is unenthusiastic about him because of the “sympathetic” view he had taken of Mohammed Ali Jinnah is his book on the Partition. It had led to Jaswant’s expulsion but Advani later intervened and had him re-inducted.

The NDA knows that the numbers are tilted decisively towards UPA nominee Hamid Ansari. However, the expected presence of Yadav and Raut at tomorrow’s meeting suggests the Opposition coalition has entered the vice-presidential race with a degree of unity.

The NDA is split over the presidential election, with the Dal (United) and the Sena having decided to vote for UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee rather than the BJP-backed Purno Sangma. Yadav, the NDA convener, actually signed as a proposer for Mukherjee.

Still, before Jaswant’s claim gathered support, it was Yadav who was being discussed with considerable seriousness till he let it be known that he was “not interested in a token fight”.

Many in the BJP are wondering how Yadav’s name had come up in the first place after he had chosen to be proposer for Mukherjee.

Yadav, though, appeared to make a conciliatory gesture towards the BJP today, suggesting his party’s support for Mukherjee should be treated as an “aberration”.

“You will see how united the NDA is this time,” he told The Telegraph.

BJP sources said that while the Sena was on board for the Vice-President’s election, they weren’t “too sure” about the Dal (United).

“I wonder if Sharadji and Nitish are on the same page. Nitish had once indicated his preference for Ansari for the presidency. If he is intent on reaching out to the Muslims every which way, then backing Ansari may be one such gesture,” a BJP source said.

Party sources said they were waiting to see what the AIADMK and the Biju Janata Dal, not to mention the Trinamul Congress, would decide.

In Mumbai, Raut said: “The Shiv Sena will support any candidate to be finalised by the NDA for the vice-presidential poll. We have received an invitation from the NDA to Monday’s meeting. I have been asked to attend the meeting in New Delhi and formally convey the party’s decision.”

The Sena decision comes within 36 hours of Mukherjee, accompanied by NCP chief Sharad Pawar, calling on Bal Thackeray and thanking him for backing his candidature.

It had earlier been speculated that the Sena might push former Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi’s case for the Vice-President’s post.