Sangma quits NCP, contest with Mukherjee on cards

NEW DELHI, June 20:
A contest between UPA heavyweight Pranab Mukherjee and P A Sangma appears to be in the offing for Presidential poll as the former Lok Sabha Speaker quit NCP today amid indications that BJP and some other allies in NDA will support him.
64-year-old Sangma resigned from NCP a day before its Parliamentary Board meeting amid warnings that disciplinary action will be taken if he pressed his candidature in the poll.
After division in its ranks, NDA heaved a sigh of relief as BJP and some other allies appeared set to back Sangma with a formal decision expected soon.
The Left parties are also meeting tomorrow to decide their strategy for the Presidential elections. Though Mukherjee reached out to the Left when he called CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat for support, the latter was non-committal.
The NCP meeting has lost much of its significance after Sangma quit the party.
Congress made light of any serious challenge to Mukherjee in the contest, with party spokesperson Rashid Alvi saying “Pranab Mukherjee is sure to become the President of the country. He will have no problem at all (in winning the Presidential election).”
Though NDA is divided with Shiv Sena declaring support for Mukherjee and JD(U) insisting on a consensus for Mukherjee, BJP, SAD and Janata Party will in all likelihood rally behind Sangma.
Fully aware that Sangma stands little chance of winning, the BJP leaders are going for a contest in order to broadbase the opposition alliance given the fact that he has been backed AIADMK and BJD.
Sangma’s resignation came as a shot in the arm for NDA which was apprehensive that he may buckle under NCP pressure and opt out of the race. It would have been embarassing for the coalition to announce support to Sangma and then find that he is not going to contest.
The former Lok Sabha Speaker’s decision to quit set off some activity in NDA camp. Though no NDA meeting was held, BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj, Jaswant Singh and L K Advani, along with Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy and Advani’s close aide Sudheendhra Kulkarni met and discussed the issue.
Sources said Sangma may meet Advani and other NDA leaders before a full-fledged NDA meeting is held to take a final call on his candidature.
BJP and Swamy have reportedly conveyed to Sangma their intent to support him.
Swamy met Sangma earlier in the day after which the 64-year-old former Lok Sabha Speaker announced his resignation from NCP, which had warned him of disciplinary action if he contested against Mukherjee.
Soon after the meeting, Kulkarni reached Sangma’s house. Sources said he was carrying a message from Advani that Sangma should not dither from his stand of contesting the poll.
BJP is also working towards convincing JD(U) to support Sangma, sources said. SAD is likely to back the former Speaker.
Sources indicated some announcement may be made by NDA tomorrow. (PTI)