Presidential polls: Mamata’s party may abstain, Kalam to decide at noon

New Delhi/Kolkata:NDTV: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has reportedly decided that despite feelers from the BJP, she will continue to back Dr APJ Kalam for President. The nuclear scientist, who has already served as President, has not indicated whether he would like to contest the election against Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. He is likely to announce his decision at noon.  Ms Banerjee, on her Facebook page, continues to plug him.

Ms Banerjee is currently estranged from the ruling coalition, the UPA, which selected Mr Mukherjee as its candidate on Friday. Sources close to her say she wants to be seen as “equi-distant” from both the UPA and the BJP-led NDA, and could abstain during the election if Dr Kalam decides not to run for office. Ms Banerjee will meet her MPs and MLAs in Kolkata this evening.

The election for President places all votes of MPs at par with members of state legislatures. Ms Banerjee holds about 4% of the vote.

The BJP, which is keen to put up a fight against the UPA as a mini general election ahead of 2014,  has been keen on backing Dr Kalam, should he decide to join the contest. If the BJP supports the scientist, it would get politically closer to Ms Banerjee, who has hit a breaking point with the UPA over its decision to field the Finance Minister as its candidate.

If Dr Kalam decides not to run for a new term, some leaders within the BJP are open to backing former speaker PA Sangma, who has officially got the support of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. The BJP has been suggesting that Ms Banerjee support Mr Sangma too.  An import ally of the BJP, however, the JD(U) does not want to oppose the Finance Minister.

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