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Shekhawat to file papers tomorrow

india Updated: Jun 24, 2007 12:56 IST

PTI
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Despite the numbers not being in his favour, Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat will file his nomination on Monday for the presidential poll as an Independent backed by the NDA, hoping to mop up support from rival formations.

Given the unity displayed by the UPA-Left grouping against a second term for incumbent APJ Abdul Kalam, 84-year-old Shekhawat has a hard time ahead of the July 19 poll against the ruling combine's nominee Pratibha Patil.

As against this, the NDA appears to be not a unified lot with the Shiv Sena, the BJP's oldest ideological ally, swayed by the Marathi card and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee evasive on supporting Shekhawat.

This is against the backdrop of claims that the three-time Rajasthan chief minister has "friends" in many parties.

The newly formed Third Front, christened the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA), has already ruled out supporting Shekhawat.

There are no takers in the ruling alliance for the talk in the NDA camp of a "conscience vote" as in the 1969 presidential election and members of the UPA-Left combine are already claiming that it will be smooth sailing for Patil.

Even leaders like NCP chief Sharad Pawar are on record as saying that Patil will win by more than two lakh votes, whoever may be her opponent. Pawar is a known friend of Shekhawat.

Comparisons to the historic battle for presidentship in 1969 between then Vice President V V Giri and Congress-backed Neelam Sanjiva Reddy are being dismissed in ruling circles.

They recalled that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's whole might was behind Giri, who contested as an Independent to cause an upset for the Congress.

The victory essentially belonged to Gandhi, for whom it was a "do or die" battle in the backdrop of the intense tussle in the "Indicate" and "Syndicate" factions of Congress that brought into question her leadership.

NDA's suggestions that cross-voting will carry the day for Shekhawat is not being taken seriously in the ruling alliance, which is projecting the theme of women's empowerment to ensure that Patil becomes the first woman President.

While the Third Front has not revealed its cards on the issue, there has been talk that it could think of a nominee whose second preference votes could be transferred to Shekhawat.

The UPA-Left alliance, which is backed by the Mayawati-led BSP, will be telling its electors to exercise only one vote and desist from giving any votes of second preference.

Patil's poll managers feel such a strategy will ensure that the UPA-Left nominee would be through in the first round itself with "numbers on our side".

Shekhawat has history on his side as no Vice President has ever lost a presidential poll.

Among the Vice Presidents who successfully contested for the top office are S Radhakrishnan, Zakir Hussein, Shankar Dayal Sharma, R Venkataraman, KR Narayanan and VV Giri.

Incidently, the Shiv Sena, which favours top posts for Maharashtrians, will announcing its stand on the poll on Monday.