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Presidential vote breaks up UNPA

The presidential poll which ended on Thursday brings forth cracks in the newly formed United National Progressive Alliance, reports Shekhar Iyer.
Hindustan Times | By Shekhar Iyer, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 20, 2007 01:54 AM IST
A Fiercely contested presidential poll to choose a successor to President APJ Abdul Kalam ended on Thursday. In the process it exposed cracks in the newly formed United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) and left the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) as divided as it was before, with some BJP rebels even voting for Congress-backed UPA nominee Pratibha Patil.

Some UNPA constituents — the AIADMK and the MDMK, INLD dissidents in Rajasthan, rebels of the Samajwadi Party in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, TDP rebels in Andhra Pradesh and rebels in the AGP in Assam — went against the alliance’s decision to abstain from voting.

The month-long campaign had been bitter. Patil, fielded by the UPA-Left combine with support from the BSP and others, had to face a volley of charges, including those regarding her stewardship of a cooperative bank.

Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, an independent nominee backed by the BJP-led NDA, had to answer allegations on his exit from the police force, appointments he had made as chief minister and his links with the RSS. But the most bizarre turn in Thursday’s voting was in Tamil Nadu.

Notwithstanding a decision by the UNPA to abstain from voting that was announced by AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa, her party's 12 MPs and most of the 60 MLAs exercised their franchise. An MP said they had decided to vote in favour of Shekhawat. Two MDMK MPs voted against the Congress.

Stunning TDP leader Chandrababu Naidu and SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav — who were against backing Shekhawat and pressed for the UNPA’s abstention — Jayalalithaa blamed the Election Commission for causing “extreme confusion” by its July 17 note on the issue of abstaining. She said her party MPs and MLAs discussed the issue and decided to vote.

In Gujarat, some 20 BJP rebels voted for Patil in protest against Chief Minister Narendra Modi's style of functioning. Four MPs from the SP also voted in protest against the party's decision to abstain.

Telengana Rashtriya Samiti member A Narendra, who parted company with party chief Chandrasekhara Rao, also cast his vote. Parliamentary Affairs Minister PR Dasmunsi said Patil would secure a "massive" victory. Shekhawat's spokesperson Sushma Swaraj claimed he had even secured support from outside the NDA.

The highlight of the election was that though the voters were MPs and MLAs, the EC issued orders to ensure proper identification of voters "with due care and diligence".

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