The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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VP woes dog Rajnath

New Delhi, July 27: Rajnath Singh has not been able to bring his “estranged” NDA allies around to vote for Najma Heptullah, the BJP’s candidate for Vice-President.

Najma has spoken to the Shiv Sena and the Trinamul Congress, both of whom had refused to vote for Bhairon Singh Shekhawat in the President poll, but BJP sources said their decision would eventually be based on “political and not personal” considerations.

So too with another ally, the Janata Dal (S). The sources said it would abstain unless the BJP agreed to jettison the six-month power-share arrangement in Karnataka and allowed chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy to carry on.

Rajnath today said neither the Sena nor Trinamul had yet indicated what they would do. “They have not conveyed their decision to us so far,” he said.

The BJP chief is believed to have called Sena working president Uddhav Thackeray twice. A Sena source said Uddhav asked him if the BJP still regarded his party an NDA constituent. Despite a positive assurance, Uddhav was not convinced because the BJP’s Maharashtra leaders, Gopinath Munde and Nitin Gadkari, kept saying they would take a call on whether to continue with the 20-year alliance.

“What are we to make out' That Rajnath has no control over the state leaders' Only when the BJP spells out its stand can we formulate ours on the poll,” the source said.

Rajnath has communicated only with Uddhav and not his father, Bal Thackeray. BJP sources said he would rather let Atal Bihari Vajpayee or L.K. Advani speak to him.

Trinamul sources insisted Mamata Banerjee was too preoccupied with state issues to consider the Vice-President poll. Rajnath had hoped that after sitting on dharna with her on Nandigram and Singur, Mamata would “reciprocate in kind”.

“Such elections to high constitutional positions are hardly contested on goodwill and abstractions. It’s arithmetic all the way and when numbers are clearly in the UPA’s favour, why is the NDA making a song and dance of it'” asked a Trinamul MP.

Barring Rajnath, the BJP brass appeared disinterested in the Vice-President poll.

Advani is away in Singapore. Sushma Swaraj and S.S. Ahluwalia have gone into a shell. M. Venkaiah Naidu has long been missing from action. Arun Jaitley has been keeping a low profile. Only Ananth Kumar was seen with Rajnath today.

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