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NDA meets to discuss presidential poll

india Updated: Jun 18, 2007 12:22 IST

Leaders of the NDA on Monday held a meeting on fielding Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat possibly as an independent candidate in the Presidential election.

Just an hour ahead of the meeting, the BJP announced that there would be no press conference at former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's residence after the NDA meeting because of rains and that the event would take place elsewhere.

Top NDA leaders, including LK Advani, Rajnath Singh, Sarad Yadav, Nitish Kumar and Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, drove down to alliance chairman Vajpayee's home for deliberations after which he is expected to announce support for Shekhawat's candidacy on behalf of the opposition front.

Vajpayee, who was authorised by the NDA to evolve a consensus on the Presidential issue, has already rebuffed UPA's pleas for consensus on its nominee Pratibha Patil and the BJP has declared that the July 19 poll will not go unopposed.

The NDA's meeting comes a day after the Samajwadi Party, a constituent of the Third Front, virtually refused support to Shekhawat as it indicated it would maintain equi-distance from both the ruling and the opposition alliances.

Faced with massive dissidence, especially in Rajasthan and Gujarat, the BJP has been trying hard to prevent any cross-voting from its own camp in favour of UPA presidential candidate Pratibha Patil.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje has already met both Shekhawat and party chief Rajnath Singh and is understood to have discussed the problem with them.

In Gujarat too, Chief Minister Narendra Modi is facing dissidence, especially from supporters of state party leader and his known critic Keshubhai Patel.

The BJP has suspended three of its MLAs in Gujarat over the past two years and issued a show-cause notice on Saturday to its legislator and former Agriculture Minister Behchar Bhadani for his outbursts against Modi.

The Third Front is also scheduled to meet later in the day in Chennai to finalise its stand on presidential elections.

Shekhawat's strategy to contest as an independent is aimed at attracting votes of those outside NDA formation like the Third Front and cross-voting from even UPA.

As these parties had decided against supporting a Congress nominee, they have been left with only three options -- to field a candidate on their own, to support Shekhawat's candidature or to abstain from voting.