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NDA Splits Further: BJP Backs Sangma, JD(U) Supports Mukherjee

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The Presidential poll today split NDA further with BJP announcing support for P A Sangma and JD(U) backing UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee, becoming the second ally after Shiv Sena to break ranks with the Opposition coalition.

Leaders of BJP and JD(U) held separate press conferences within an hour of each other to announce support for rival candidates for the poll to be held on July 19, in which Mukherjee has a clear edge with 5.88 lakh out of nearly 11 lakh votes in his favour.

Sangma is expected to garner only 3.10 lakh votes.

BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley said the party decided to support Sangma, whose candidature has been proposed by AIADMK and BJD, after trying unsuccessfully to evolve a consensus within NDA on it.

They noted that JD(U) and Shiv Sena had not agreed on supporting Sangma and instead backed Mukherjee but insisted that it will have no impact on the "mature" coalition of NDA.

"We regret we could not persuade our allies...We hope they will review their position," Jaitley said.

Swaraj said BJP would try to bring Trinamool, which broke ranks with UPA, also on board and talks were on for it.

Both Swaraj and Jaitley argued that it was BJP's duty, being the main Opposition, not to allow a "walkover" to UPA which did not "consult" it before announcing the candidature of Mukherjee.

Jaitley said the BJP could not support a government which is using "various manoeuvres", including investigative agencies, to rope in parties to stay in power.

Describing Sangma as "the country's tall leader" besides North East's "tallest leader", Swaraj appealed to Shiv Sena and JD-U to give up their opposition to his candidature.

Soon after, JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav announced support for Mukherjee and his party was against any contest after former President A P J Abdul Kalam refused to enter the fray. 

UPA, without TMC, has vote share of 4.12 lakh. However, with the support of SP's 66,688 votes, BSP's 45,473, JD(U)'s 40,737, Shiv Sena's 18,495 and JD(S)'s 6,138, Mukherjee can muster votes much beyond the required number of 5,49,442 votes.

On the other hand, undivided NDA had 3.04 lakh votes, which came down to 2.43 after JD(U) and Shiv Sena broke ranks.

AIADMK and BJD have 36,920 and 30,125 votes. In effect, Sangma can garner 3.10 lakh votes.

Trinamool Congress has 45,925 votes but the party is yet to decide on whom to support.

Swaraj and Jaitley regretted that BJP could not persuade its allies and have a consensus in the NDA over the issue but insisted that it would have no impact on the coalition.

To press her point, she noted that Shiv Sena had earlier also voted for UPA nominee Pratibha Patil during the last Presidential poll even though NDA had opposed her candidature but it still remained part of the alliance.

Sharad Yadav took pains to emphasis that they are part of NDA but under the present circumstances, they are backing a candidate on whom a "consensus" has been arrived at.

"We are not supporting a Congress candidate. Under the present circumstances, we are supporting a UPA candidate for whom there is a consensus," he said.

The JD(U) chief said there was a consensus within the NDA till former President Kalam was in the race. "However, after Kalam's exit, there were different opinions and names."

Welcoming BJP's support, Sangma appealed to JD(U) and Shiv Sena to back him. He said other NDA allies like Akali Dal, JMM and other smaller parties have assured their support to him.

On Trinamool Congress, he said he had talked to its chief earlier and was "very very hopeful that Mamata will be with me," he said.

NCP, which Sangma quit yesterday to contest the election, slammed him for becoming a candidate for "communal forces".

Party spokesman D P Tripathi said the development also showed the "bankruptcy" of BJP that they had to "import" a candidate from UPA.