Mumbai: In a major boost to the ruling United Progressive Alliance, a key opposition alliance partner, the Shiv Sena on Tuesday announced full and unconditional support to Congress candidate Pranab Mukherjee for the post of President.

Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, in a statement here early on Tuesday, not only announced his party's support to Mukherjee, but also exhorted all political parties to help elect him unanimously, hours after the Finance Minister called Thackeray and sought his support.

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"Let bygones be bygones. It is now time to think in terms of national interest. Let us all support Pranab Mukherjee unanimously and show to the world 'hum ek hai' (we are united)," Thackeray urged in a signed statement in Tuesday morning edition of the party mouthpiece Saamna.

This is a clear dampener to the moves by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee to put up a candidate against Mukherjee and Nationalist Congress Party leader P.A. Sangma's aspirations to contest the presidential election.

With 11 members in the Lok Sabha, four in the Rajya Sabha, seven in the Maharashtra legislative council and 46 in the legislative assembly, the Shiv Sena is a key constituent of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which had been toying with the idea of putting up its own candidate to challenge Mukherjee.

Frowning at the ongoing developments around the presidential elections, Thackeray said that the kind of dramatics being witnessed is doing no good for the country's image in the eyes of the world.

"People with no support base are attempting to enter the race (for presidency) and are getting exposed in the process. But this is not the occasion to analyse all this. I will conduct a post-mortem at the opportune time," Thackeray assured.

Pre-empting any criticism of his move by the BJP and other NDA constituents, Thackeray without taking names said that people with empty hands cannot display bravado by entering the battle for the presidential elections.

"Nobody should accuse the Shiv Sena of treachery, backstabbing, fraud or cheating since we have been a victim of all these in the past," Thackeray said. However, he extended an olive branch by adding that the Shiv Sena wanted "to forget the past", and urged all parties to unanimously support Mukherjee for the post of President.


With Kalam opting out, sources said JD(U) is likely to become even more adamant about not having a contest. Sangma does not enjoy the stature that Kalam does, rendering a contest even more redundant, according to JD(U) sources.

Since JD(U) and Shiv Sena are against a contest for the presidential election, the BJP's foremost concern at the moment is to convince its allies that Mukherjee should not be elected unopposed.
JD(U) apparently wants to keep its options open in the next Lok Sabha elections, which may throw up a hung Parliament, and also feels that no purpose will be served if the NDA candidate is trounced by Mukherjee who is expected to have a smooth sailing


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