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Shah faces Sena muscle

- Snub to BJP presidential-poll push

Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray and son Aditya (extreme left) meet BJP president Amit Shah and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis at Matoshree in Mumbai on Sunday. BJP leaders are meeting leaders of various political parties to reach a consensus on presidential nominee. (PTI)

New Delhi, June 18: Uddhav Thackeray today rejected BJP chief Amit Shah's suggestion to let Narendra Modi decide the NDA's choice for the next President, asserting the Shiv Sena needs to know the candidate's name before committing support.

"Uddhav ji told Amit Shahji that though we are with the NDA and have faith in the BJP, we cannot blindly support anyone," Sena spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut told The Telegraph.

"He told him we need to know the name of the candidate before declaring our support," Raut added. The snub from the BJP's oldest ally comes at a time the party is keeping its choice a closely guarded secret while trying to persuade all allies to vote for a nominee decided by Prime Minister Modi in the presidential election scheduled for July 17.

The BJP has nearly 48 per cent of the votes in the electoral college, which means a win is all but assured.

Shah had called on Uddhav at Matoshree, the Sena chief's residence in Mumbai, and sought the ally's support.

Raut, the Sena spokesperson, said Uddhav wanted to know the name of the candidate the BJP proposed to field but Shah said Modi would decide it.

"How can you seek support without giving us the name of the person whom we have to support? Don't the allies have the right to know the name of the person who they would elect as the next President?" Raut said, adding that the Sena's stand stays unchanged.

The Sena had earlier threatened to take an independent stand and pitched for RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. "At the meeting, Uddhav ji told Shah that the BJP should consider the name of Bhagwatji and spell out if they have any other name," Raut said.

The Sena has also suggested the name of agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan.

Shah had met Uddhav along with Maharashtra's BJP chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis, in an effort to soothe the strained relations between the state's ruling partners but the 75-minute closed-door meeting didn't appear to have achieved the purpose.

BJP sources said the party's parliamentary board was likely to meet on Tuesday to finalise the name of the candidate. Party leaders said only two persons - Modi and Shah - were in the know but had not shared their choice with any other leader, and added that the parliamentary board could authorise the Modi to decide the candidate.

The three-member BJP panel authorised to hold discussions with leaders of other parties have been meeting Opposition leaders without citing any name.

Like the Sena, the opposition parties too have dubbed the BJP's effort to build a consensus without proposing any names as mere tokenism.

One of the panel members today spoke to Samajwadi Party leaders Ramgopal Yadav and Naresh Agrawal and met Lok Janshakti Party chief and Union minister Ramvilas Paswan. While Paswan said he would support Modi's choice, the Samajwadi leaders asked the BJP to opt for a politician as their presidential candidate, not an apolitical person or someone from the RSS.

Another panel member, Arun Jaitley, spoke to Trinamul Congress and Biju Janata Dal leaders.

The BJP wants to declare the name of the presidential candidate and file the nomination papers before Modi leaves for his US trip on June 24.


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