Some MPs of the Samajwadi Party, which is part of the eight-party Third Front alliance, are not keen to back Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat in the July 19 presidential poll and may vote for ruling coalition candidate Pratibha Patil.
Congress managers claim that at least three Samajwadi Party MPs, namely Chaudhry Munawwar Hasan, Mohammad Shahid Akhlaq and Shafiqur Rehman Barq, have been contacting Congress leaders. This, they said, is because there are conflicting reports in the Samajwadi Party camp on who the party will ultimately back in the poll.
The three Muslim MPs seem to have a problem with the candidature of Shekhawat, and sources said they prefer to vote against Shekhawat, as opposed to the political line of their party to remain neutral or abstain from voting.
Sources said by the time the campaign really picks up many more MPs from the UNPA are expected to approach the Congress leaders.
While none of the three MPs are currently in New Delhi, the secretarial staff of Barq said, "We know that under no circumstances can he vote for Shekhawat."
The poll will see a straight contest between United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-Left-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate Pratibha Patil and Shekhawat, who is expected to contest as an independent, supported from outside by the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
With President APJ Abdul Kalam opting out of the race for a second term, MPs from the Third Front, recently christened the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA), realise that they have eventually to decide between Patil and Shekhawat.
Meanwhile, digging out past dirt against Pratibha Patil has become a full-fledged campaign with sms messages sent out from unlisted numbers.