Former Prime Minister A B Vajpayee was amused when Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee told a meeting of NDA leaders on Tuesday evening that he would make the best consensus choice for the Presidential election.
The meeting, which was held at Vajpayee’s residence, later authorised Vajpayee to name the Opposition alliance’s candidate for the elections.
The BJP wants to push for Vice- President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat’s candidature for the post, and wants other NDA allies to back it.
Earlier, the Janata Dal (United) had rooted for a second term for President Abdul Kalam.
Trinamool leader Dinesh Trivedi said after the meeting at Vajpayee's residence that his party believed Vajpayee was the most suitable candidate for presidency given his “seniority and calibre.”
But NDA convenor George Fernandes and BJP’s deputy leader V K Malhotra said Vajpayee would name a nominee for the elections.
"No names were discussed at the meeting. The NDA authorised Vajpayee to decide on the candidate and let it be known to the constituents for their approval," Malhotra said.
BJP leaders said Shekhawat had emerged as the best possible choice and did not think that consensus could be built on Kalam’s name. Kalam had declined to make another bid for the Rashtrapati Bhavan, making it clear that he would enter the race only as a consensus candidate.
Shekhawat had won the Vice Presidential election in 2002 by securing votes outside the NDA fold.
BJP leaders said UP Chief Minister Mayawati held the key in this year’s election and they would wait for her to take a decision. If Mayawati chooses to throw her weight behind the UPA and the Left on this issue, the difference between the NDA and the UPA in terms of votes could be as high as 62,000.
The BJP believed that Mayawati was not favourably disposed towards Union Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who is said to be high on the Congress’s list.
Earlier in the day, Advani told his party MPs that he believed that an NDA nominee for the highest office stood a good chance of success if they made full efforts to ensure their candidate's election as the country's next president.
"An NDA candidate can succeed if you all try hard," Malhotra quoted him as telling party MPs.