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BJP caught unawares by UPA move

Neena Vyas

Many parties will like to see woman elected President


  • JD (U), Sena will find it difficult to oppose Pratibha
  • SP, TDP may be reluctant to back Shekhawat

    NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party was taken by surprise at the UPA's show of unity in the choice of its presidential candidate Pratibha Patil, now Governor of Rajasthan. Although BJP leaders are not willing to say this on record, privately they concede that the chances of Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat emerging winner have weakened. Several factors are at play. One, the Shekhawat camp was banking heavily on cross voting by Thakur legislators — his strategy was being prepared by a couple of Thakur political friends. But as Ms. Patil, married to a Shekhawat, is a Thakurain herself, that factor has been neutralised.

    Two, Ms. Patil, if elected, will be the first woman President and many legislators and political parties would like to make that possible. Even the Janata Dal (United) may find it difficult to oppose her.

    Its president Sharad Yadav has already indicated that he will wait and see what efforts, if any, the United Progressive Alliance makes to build consensus.

    Three, from the standpoint of the BJP's allies, the Shiv Sena would find it tough not to support a Maratha for President especially because it would be the first chance for a Maharashtrian to become President.

    Although there is no evidence of unity as yet in the Opposition camp, some senior BJP leaders are confident that both the National Democratic Alliance and the Third Front will back Mr. Shekhawat, who seems to be keen on contesting as independent. However, there is a view that the Samajwadi Party and the Telugu Desam Party will be reluctant to vote for Mr. Shekhawat as he has been a BJP man almost all his life and he relinquished party membership only when he became Vice-President.

    The NDA's stand will become clear when its leaders meet at the residence of the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee here on June 18.

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