Open to backing Pranab, NDA may seek V-P post
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Prospects of A P J Abdul Kalam becoming the president receded as fast today as his candidacy had gained momentum. As the Congress finally rallied around Pranab Mukherjee and managed to secure the Samajwadi Party's support for him, the numerical build-up that could have made Kalam's return as president looked no longer sustainable.
Shortly after UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi announced Mukherjee was their nominee for the top post, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, senior BJP leader L K Advani and floor leaders of other parties in both the Houses to solicit support for him.
While NDA leaders, who deliberated for over 90 minutes at Advani's residence, chose to defer a decision, sources indicated that the alliance was open to the option of backing Mukherjee. And this was for two reasons: one, the veteran leader shares an excellent equation with opposition leaders and they are convinced of his qualification for the post; and two, the numbers are stacked in favour of the UPA after Mulayam's about-turn.
The JD(U) reportedly had also told the NDA to support Mukherjee and instead bargain for the vice-president's post. Backing Mukherjee, it believes, will send across a healthy message.
While the party had earlier hinted at backing Kalam, a top JD-U leader close to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar told The Indian Express on Friday: "Now that we have a man of big stature in the fray and Kalam is not keen to contest, the NDA is not left with much option."
The NDA too admitted that the situation as far as Kalam goes had changed. Sources in the alliance said: "He (Kalam) is disinclined to contest unless he is sure of a comfortable victory... (That is) obviously not happening."
Kalam, who was in Patna for a function today, reacted cautiously earlier in the day, telling reporters he would "take right decision at the right time".
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