As the NDA leaders continue to wonder how the Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat will beat UPA-Left Presidential nominee Pratibha Patil in the number game, the latter met senior Congress leaders Arjun Singh and Karan Singh, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and former Prime Minister V.P. Singh to seek their support for the polls.
Arjun Singh and Karan Singh were earlier considered as among the aspirants for the UPA nomination. Soon after Patil called on him, Arjun Singh came out in her support and dismissed the BJP's charge that Patil’s name evolved out of compulsion.
“Its (the choice of Patil) neither compulsion nor helplessness. It was a clear choice of the UPA and the Congress President. She will make a very good President,” he said.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunshi met Patil to discuss the strategy for the polls. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi will be among the first list of senior leaders proposing her in the nomination papers to be filed on June 23.
The Prime Minister had a meeting with National Conference president Omar Abdullah on Sunday, seeking his party’s support for Patil. The National Conference is the single largest party in the Jammu and Kashmir State Assembly.
Meanwhile, the absence of numbers on the side of Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat in the electoral college engaged the attention of NDA leaders on the eve of their key meeting on Sunday.
Though former Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee is to make an announcement after the alliance’s meeting at his house, many NDA leaders acknowledged that Shekhawat faced a difficult situation.
With the Third Front undecided and still wary of coming out in support of Shekhawat because of his BJP-RSS background, senior BJP leaders reached out to leaders of other parties that may be disinclined to back him. JD (U)’s Digvijay Singh called on Sena chief Bal Thackeray in Mumbai on Sunday.
Some Janata Dal(U), SP and the TDP leaders were said to be not too pleased with the BJP for talking “too much” about Shekhawat’s candidature.
They were of the view that the saffron party should have waited for a formal announcement by the Vice-President himself or at best waited for the NDA meeting.
BJP chief Rajnath Singh had a meeting here with Shekhawat to discuss the number game. Former Union Minister and JD(U) leader Digvijay Singh, a close associate of Shekhawat, also held parleys. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who arrived here met JD(U) president Sharad Yadav and NDA Convener George Fernandes. The latter had met Samajawadi Party leader Mulyam Singh Yadav to urge the Third Front to back Shekhawat.