President poll: Sangma quits party, BJP dithers on support, Nitish refuses

New Delhi: PA Sangma, adamant on running for President of India, has resigned from the party that he co-founded several years ago with Sharad Pawar. Mr Sangma says he has no choice but to quit the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which is a member of the ruling coalition, the UPA.

Party chief Sharad Pawar has accepted his resignation.

Mr Sangma had been urged by his party to withdraw from the race. The NCP has committed its support to the UPA’s candidate, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. Till this morning, the party was hopeful of persuading him to withdraw from the contest.

The main Opposition party, the BJP, is considering whether to throw its weight behind Mr Sangma. Nitish Kumar, an important ally of the BJP, does not want to oppose Mr Mukherjee for President. According to sources, the Bihar Chief Minister has told the BJP that he will not back Mr Sangma. Sources also say that JD(U) president Sharad Yadav has communicated this to the BJP leadership – they want the BJP to make a formal announcement.

Another partner, the Shiv Sena, has already announced that it will vote for Mr Mukherjee because the BJP-led coalition, the NDA, has failed to find a worthy candidate.

Lauding A P J Abdul Kalam for withdrawing from the Presidential race, Shiv Sena today said in an editorial in its magazine that it wanted the “conscience” of the other presidential hopeful, P A Sangma, to also awaken.

Senior BJP leaders are currently in meeting at LK Advani’s home. Now that Mr Sangma is no longer a member of a party that is allied with the Congress, the BJP will find it easier to back him. Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy, met Mr Sagma this afternoon on behalf of the NDA.

Mr Sangma has said that he is not contradicting his party’s stand because he is a representative of tribal groups, not the NCP. He has the backing of Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa and Odisha chief minister Navin Patnaik. The BJP is keen to join this group. The math is not in favour of Mr Sangma. But the BJP is viewing the contest through the prism of the general elections in 2014. It wants to put up a candidate against the UPA to prove to voters that it is a functional opposition. The party also wants to move closer to the parties led by Ms Jayalalithaa and Mr Patnaik.

Mr Sangma’s odds will be heavily influenced by the Left, which meets tomorrow to decide who to back in the Presidential election. Sources say Left parties are unwilling to support a candidate propped up by the BJP.

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