Mumbai: After supporting the UPA Presidential candidate, key NDA constituent Shiv Sena on Tuesday came out in favour of unanimous election of Pranab Mukherjee for the top post, giving a jolt to BJP's plans for a contest.

Hailing Mukherjee as the "right candidate", Sena supremo Bal Thackeray said that a message that "we are all united" should go round by unanimous election of the Finance Minister to Rashtrapati Bhavan.

"Let bygones be bygones. Let us unanimously support Pranab Mukherjee and show the world that "hum sab ek hai" (we are all united)," Thackeray said in a statement published in the party mouthpiece 'Saamana'.

At a time when a sizeable section of the BJP, leading the NDA appeared to be planning to support P A Sangma in the Presidential race, the Sena chief said, "The farce that is on for the top post of President is not justifiable.

"The country's prestige is at stake for political gains. Those who have no merit are also in the race," Thackeray said, a day after A P J Abdul Kalam made it clear that he would not be contesting.

The Sena chief also dismissed allegations of backstabbing against his party.

"Nobody should dare level allegations of treachery and backstabbing against the Shiv Sena. The Sena is not out to seek vengeance because such allegations were made earlier," Thackeray said.

Mukherjee had on Monday telephoned Thackeray as also the Sena Executive President Uddhav Thackarey seeking the support of the party in the poll.

The Shiv Sena's decision will help boost the prospects of the UPA nominee significantly given the fact that the party has 15 MPs, including 11 in the Lok Sabha and has 46 MLAs and 7 MLCs in the Maharashtra legislature.

Setback for BJP

With contrasting stands among its allies on the presidential election, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appears to be in a fix. Shiv Sena, a part of the BJP-led opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA), has already publicly said it would support Pranab Mukherjee, the Congress-led ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) candidate for the highest office in the country.

After the BJP's core committee meeting on Monday decided that contesting the poll was necessary, the party was put in a tight spot by the Shiv Sena, which not only favoured Mukherjee but urged other political parties too to back the finance minister.

This is a second time the Shiv Sena has ditched the BJP. In the last presidential poll too, it had supported UPA candidate Pratibha Patil. Another major ally, Janata Dal-United is also reportedly not in favour of putting up a candidate against Mukherjee. 

BJP yet to decide on Presidential candidature

The BJP, which is yet to decide on a presidential candidate, is sticking to its stand of not letting Mukherjee win uncontested."That is the general sense that we must have a candidate against Mukherjee, even if it is only symbolic. Otherwise, we will appear as a weak opposition," a BJP leader, who did not want to be named, said.

The leader, however, refused to comment on the possibility of the BJP going alone against its allies.

The party had on Monday night refused to talk to the press after the core committee meeting. It only said that a final decision would be taken after a meeting of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) leaders, a date for which has not yet been fixed. During the meeting, the party had reportedly discussed backing Nationalist Congress Party leader and former Lok Sabha speaker P. Sangma.


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