Presidential poll: BJP unlikely to back Pranab Mukherjee for 2nd term

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Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar was the first to support the demand for second term for Pranab Mukherjee this week, and his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee backed the idea in a meeting with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.(Reuters File Photo)

New Delhi: The BJP is unlikely to support a second term for President Pranab Mukherjee.
The 13th President of India completes his term on July 24 and the BJP wants its candidate to replace the veteran Congressman.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar was the first to support the demand for second term this week, and his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee backed the idea in a meeting with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
“The question (for another term) does not arise,” a senior BJP leader said. “We have nothing against him but here is an opportunity for the party to get a president from within the family.” At least three Union ministers HT spoke to said Mukherjee’s
Mukherjee’s remarks at the height of the intolerance debate did not go down well with the ruling establishment. The government always felt the debate was manufactured and did not merit his intervention.
An electoral college comprising MPs and MLAs elect the President and the ruling NDA is 20,000-odd votes short of the majority. Support from YSR Congress will fill that gap and any further help will only strengthen the NDA’s position.
Scientist APJ Abdul Kalam was the first, and the last, NDA candidate to become President in 2002. He did not belong to the BJP but was propped up to take the fizz out of the opposition’s plan to block an NDA nominee to the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
The NDA is better placed this time than in 2002 to get a non-Congress political leader elected to the top post. “It will take us half an hour to decide on our candidate,” a senior BJP leader told HT. “We haven’t discussed names yet.”
Jharkhand governor Draupadi Murmu, Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu, and a few others are seen as contenders from the ruling side. A discussion with the RSS, the BJP’s ideological mentor, will take place before the announcement of the name.
The opposition, too, is discussing names, such as former West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi and former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, but a decision is yet to be taken.

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