New Delhi, Jun 16: Consensus in favour of Pranab Mukherjee's Presidential candidature seems to be growing within NDA with a section of the opposition alliance saying a contest at this stage will only bring embarrassment to it.
Sources in JD-U, a key ally of the BJP-led coalition, said the party would favour a consensus around Mukherjee and feels a contest should be avoided as it could be embarrassing as neither APJ Abdul Kalam has so far agreed to contest nor the NDA has the numbers.
JD-U chief Sharad Yadav, who today met Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders including Naresh Gujral, said after the meeting that NDA will take a collective decision on the matter after its meeting tomorrow.
Slamming attempts to drag Kalam's name in thePresidential race, Gujral said it amounted to “demeaning and trivialising” Kalam as he has not given his consent for the same.
“Why do you take Kalam's name again and again, when he never said he will contest. We actually trivialise and demean Kalam when we drag his name again and again,” he said.
Asked whether Akali Dal will support Kalam's candidature, actively pursued by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, the SAD leader said his party will respond to such questions only after Kalam says he is contesting.
Though sources said that SAD is keen on NDA projecting Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal as a candidate for the post of Vice President in a quid pro quo, Gujaral denied any such plan.
“Badal is happy where he is placed. He is in Punjab and he is happy. We are not into a position to advance his name (for Vice President). Will we bring insult on us by doing it when we do not have the numbers,” Gujral said. At the same time, he said the UPA has never attempted to “accommodate” the Opposition and build consensus on the issue of President.
Badal's name as a probable Vice Presidential candidate had done the rounds a few months back, when talks about the Presidential race had begun.
Gujral, however, asked “why will anyone take Badal's name from NDA for Vice President's post . This decision (about candidature of Vice President) has to be taken by the UPA”.
On the issue of NDA supporting any candidate against Mukherjee in the Presidential race, Gujral said Akali Dal has always been a very “disciplined member of NDA” and will go by whatever decision is taken by the alliance. Asked what was discussed in the meeting with the JD-U chief, Gujral said, “The political situation from now up to 2014.”
Sources in NDA allies said that much will depend on how Biju Janta Dal and AIADMK, which have backed P A Sangma's candidature, respond to the situation.
“Both NDA and UPA are wooing these two parties. If they continue supporting Sangma, there could be a contest otherwise no contest. You see Kalam is not going to agree to contest unless he is cent percent sure of winning the seat,” a senior leader from the alliance said.
The leader said though TMC is so far firm on backing Kalam's candidature, what stand Mamata Banerjee will take if Kalam backs out remains to be seen as Congress has still not lost hope of getting back her support and its leaders are issuing appeals to her to back Mukherjee.
The leader also indicated that JD-U is soft towards Mukherjee but the party won't take the extreme step of opposing NDA's decision if the majority view is for contest.
Senior JD-U leader Shivanand Tiwari said it was his personal opinion that “a senior and respected leader like Pranab Mukherjee, who is going into retire (from active politics) should be given a graceful send off”.
He said it was clear that Mukherjee will win the Presidential race with Mulayam and Mayawati backing his candidature as UPA candidate.