Even as it was struggling to find a candidate for the presidential election, the BJP was left red-faced by its oldest ally, the Shiv Sena, which declared its support for Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday.
In a statement, Sena chief Bal Thackeray declared support for Mukherjee and even appealed to political parties to elect him unanimously.
Thackeray, who did not attend NDA meetings on the issue, expressed his anguish over the “drama, which is going on over the presidential elections”. He also advised fellow NDA allies to support Mukherjee and “show the world that we are united”.
Anticipating bitter reaction from the BJP, he warned the ally against labelling him a traitor. “Nobody should accuse Sena of backstabbing or deceiving.” Sena sources said Mukherjee had called up Thackeray and spoken to him and his son Uddhav.
Reacting to Thackeray’s decision, state BJP president Sudhir Munguntiwar said, “Such behaviour sends wrong signal to the people about our ally’s commitment to fight the Congress.” He was, however, quick to add that the Sena-BJP alliance would remain unaffected.
Senior NCP leader and Union minister for heavy industries Praful Patel on Tuesday said the party would take a stern action against party leader PA Sangma if the latter contests Presidential elections.
Patel, who was in Bhandara, about 60 km from Nagpur, to inaugurate a job fair, said, “We have supported Pranab Mukherjee, who is the best choice for the country for the top constitutional post. Sangma should respect the party’s decision and should not contest.”