The NDA was a house divided over the impending presidential contest on Thursday, with the BJP and the Janata Dal (U) formally announcing support to different candidates.
While senior BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley announced the party’s support for former Lok Sabha speaker PA Sangma, JD(U) president Sharad Yadav said his party will back Pranab Mukherjee.
Faced with a split NDA, the BJP leaders explained the contest saying the government hadn’t engaged in prior consultation and that they didn’t want to back a “failed UPA”. One argument extended earlier was missing: that of the contest being an opportunity to “expand” the NDA.
The divide written large, the BJP admitted it could not get its allies on board, and made a renewed appeal to them to back Sangma. Shiv Sena has already announced its support for Mukherjee.
"There were two NDA formal meetings and informal talks too, but we could not have one opinion on this. Shiv Sena and JD(U) are still not in favour of a contest,” Swaraj told the media. “The government did not have prior consultations with us. And in view of the fact that Pranab Mukherjee is their candidate, and the condition the country has been brought to, we decided to have a contest.”
Asked whether this would affect the NDA, Swaraj answered in the negative: "The NDA has inherent strength to take different opinions together. Even last time, Shiv Sena had supported Pratibha Patil, but it didn't harm the NDA, which is a mature alliance."
Jaitley made it clear that the BJP didn’t want to strengthen a “failed UPA”.
While announcing the JD(U)'s support for Mukherjee soon afterwards, Sharad Yadav underlined the alliance was intact. He said that the JD(U) would have been backed a contest if APJ Abdul Kalam had been the candidate, but was against it now.
“We are not supporting a Congress candidate; we are supporting a UPA candidate for whom there is a consensus,” he said.