New Delhi: Pranab Mukherjee appears to be set for Rashtrapati Bhavan as consensus was growing in sections of the NDA that, considering his political stature and popularity, he should get cross-party support.

Although, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is yet to make up its mind on supporting Mukherjee, murmurs of support for him came from its key alliance Janata Dal-United (JDU) and to some extent Shrimoni Akali Dal (SAD) In Patna, JDU leader Shivanand Tiwari said a "graceful sendoff" should be given to the veteran politician by making him the country's 13th president."A senior and respected leader like Pranab Mukherjee, who is going to retire (from active politics), should be given a graceful sendoff," Tiwari told reporters in Patna, adding that it was his personal view.  He also said that Mukherjee enjoys the backing of Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party (BJP), whose support will take the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) strength in the electoral college to 47.6 percent.

JD-U chief Sharad Yadav was quick to point out that NDA will meet Sunday and decide its stand on the presidential poll. He also added that Tiwari was airing his personal view. However, sources in the JD-U say that at the NDA meeting many party leaders will stress on support to Mukherjee. JD-U is the second largest partner in the NDA and the party shares power in Bihar with the BJP. The BJP has been saying that it will not support a Congress candidate.

The party will have to decide on whether it will back Purno Sangma, who is ready to defy his party Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) diktat and contest against Mukherjee, or go along with majority political opinion and back Pranab as a consensus candidate.  Sangma enjoys the support of two chief ministers - AIADMK's J.Jayalalitha and Biju Janata Dal's Naveen Patnaik. The BJD came out in open support of Sangma on Saturday.

NCP is part of UPA and had endorsed Mukherjee's candidature Friday.  "As of now there is no change in our decision on the presidential poll. BJD sticks to its support for Sangma, a prominent tribal leader. We are determined to back Sangma," senior leader and BJD parliamentary party leader Arjun Sethi told reporters in Odisha. Sangma, who could be expelled from his party if he goes ahead against Mukherjee, is also eyeing support from the NDA. "My party will take a decision (on Sangma). He is a senior person. We will convince him to withdraw," NCP chief Sharad Pawar said. NCP is holding a meet on this matter next Thursday. The BJP had earlier favoured A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

But in all probability, the former president will not contest, despite Mamata Banerjee insisting that her Trinamool Congress will support him.  BJD (3.3 percent) and AIADMK (2.8 percent) together make only 6.1 percent of total votes in the electoral college. If NDA backs Sangma, the total will be 33. 8 percent.  Even if Sangma decides to contest the presidential poll, Mukherjee is set to sail through with a total vote share of 48 percent on his side.


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