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Left may change strategy on Presidential poll after BSP win

Sunday 13 May 2007

New Delhi, May. 13 (PTI): The victory of Mayawati-led BSP in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections and the party securing a majority on its own appears to have made the Left go in for a rethink of its strategy of pushing its own candidate in the July presidential election.

Latest indications are that the Congress and the Left parties would now begin the exercise of evolving a consensus around a candidate who will be most acceptable to all of them. The basic Left conditions are that incumbent A P J Abdul Kalam and Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat would not pass their muster. The candidate should be a secular personality and a person with thorough knowledge of the working of the Constitution, Left party sources said adding they have made this clear to the UPA leadership.

In this context, the name of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee appears high among the probables in view of his long experience in politics and governance and over whom the Left parties may not have much reservations, the sources said. The only factor against his shifting to Raisina Hills is the fact that he is seen as an indispensable factor in the current coalition set-up as a trouble shooter and a senior aide to both Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Considering the UP vote as a negative point for the NDA whose leader BJP fancies chances of getting its candidate into the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Left parties are said to be veering round to the view that it may have to get together with the Congress-led UPA in this election.

Left sources said the BSP is offering support to the UPA Government at the Centre and it will be only logical to expect it to back a candidate of the Central coalition. More so because the BSP does not have to depend on anyone’s support for its government and may have no serious reason to back an NDA candidate. Gandhi and Singh have already held discussions with top leaders of the Left parties on a joint candidate to succeed Kalam against whom the outside supporters of the government have already made the position clear vis-a-vis a second term.

The ruling UPA commands nearly 4 lakh votes out of a total of nearly 11 lakh votes in the electoral college for the presidential elections. The NDA has about 3,60,000 votes and is banking on support from parties like BSP and anti-Congress groups like SP, Telugu Desam, AGP and AIADMK.

While the BSP commands a vote share of over 55,000, including MLAs and MPs, the SP has a vote share of over 51,000 votes. The Left parties including CPI(M), CPI and Forward Bloc command nearly one lakh votes and are expected to tilt the race in favour of Congress-led UPA if it decides to support the ruling combine.

With BSP having 206 members in the 403 member UP House with a vote share of 41,818, Mayawati virtually holds the key to Raisina Hills at a time when the UPA-Left and the opposition NDA are almost evenly placed.

During their discussions with the Left parties, Gandhi and Singh have referred to names including Mukherjee, Union Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and former Union Minister Karan Singh as being mentioned in speculative reports.

Left sources said the two leaders themselves did not broach any names for consideration. The sources said it would be naive to expect Mayawati to support any Dalit candidate only on that ground because of her new social engineering including upper castes in her vote base.

"It is for our leader to take a decision in the matter", senior BSP leader Gandhi Azad said when asked to comment on BSP’s stand on the crucial issue. UPA sources say that the newly elected UP Chief Minister’s backing was a must to ensure smooth sailing of the candidate of the ruling alliance as the party has emerged with substantial vote share in the presidential election.

The increased vote strength of the BSP is at the cost of its arch detractor Mulayam Singh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party as also the BJP and to a smaller extent the Congress.

See online : The Hindu

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