The fear of losing the “secular” tag if they back Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat in the presidential election has put Third Front leaders in a dilemma on the eve of their Chennai conclave.
Like the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), the Samajwadi Party (SP) too on Sunday failed to reach a decision on how the non-Congress and non-BJP alternative should vote to convey its opposition to the Congress-UPA nominee, Pratibha Patil, without being dubbed ‘communal’. The Third Front is against supporting Patil. It is thus left with three options: backing Shekhawat, fielding a candidate of its own, or abstaining from voting.
If they support Shekhawat, all eight parties will be pilloried by the Congress and the Left for backing a BJP-RSS leader, which in turn may affect their own support base among the minorities. Again, with just one lakh votes between them in a 10 lakh strong electoral college, winning is out of the question if they field a candidate of their own.
SP general secretary Amar Singh said his party could not be seen as joining hands with the BJP. Ram Gopal Yadav, also general secretary SP, said, referring to Pratibha Patil, “We respect her as she is governor of a state, but her stature is not so high as compared to Shekhawat.” But he added that although Shekhawat’s record as chairman of Rajya Sabha was “unbiased”, his roots were in the RSS.