In a surprise move, Naveen Patnaik and J Jayalalithaa, both chief ministers and belonging to non-Congress parties, on Thursday floated the name of former Lok Sabha speaker PA Sangma for the post of President.
The move is being seen as an attempt by the non-UPA camp to steal a march over the ruling alliance in evolving a consensus on the choice of the country's next President, though Sangma's Nationalist Congress Party did not approve of the development.
The main opposition, the BJP, however, remained non-committal on the issue. “We will meet our NDA allies after the party's national executive in Mumbai on May 24-25," said party spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain.
BJP sources said there had been informal consultations with Tamil Nadu chief minister (CM) Jayalalithaa, who is also AIADMK head, on this, but the party was yet to arrive at any decision.
The latest twist on the matter came on Thursday from Odisha, where the tribals constitute one-fifth of the population.
"I think Sangma ought to be the candidate for the highest post," Patnaik, who is also the head of the Biju Janata Dal, told reporters in Bhubhaneswar, mindful of the population share of the tribals in the state.
Patnaik said he had discussed the matter with Jayalalithaa.
Shortly after, the AIAIDMK chief issued a statement in Chennai, saying her party had decided to support the candidature of Sangma for the highest office after "due consideration".
Sangma, who has been himself campaigning for a tribal President, thanked the two parties for the decision but his party chief, Sharad Pawar, remained unimpressed. "I am not aware of any such development."
With inputs from Chennai