BJP reaches out to political parties for presidential elections, holds talks with Shiv Sena, LJP

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BJP reaches out to political parties for presidential elections, holds talks with Shiv Sena, LJP

NEW DELHI: BJP continued its efforts to reach out to various political parties to widen its support base for the presidential election, with the three-member panel of Union ministers talking to the ruling NDA members Shiv Sena and LJP, as well as other parties such as the SP, TMC and BJD, which may back the ruling party candidate.

Even as BJP is holding deliberations with its allies and other parties, it seems to have mustered the requisite numbers. The exercise of reaching out is aimed at getting as many other parties as possible. AIADMK, YSR Congress and TRS, along with several regional parties, have already extended support to NDA on the presidential election. The BJP Parliamentary Board, the party’s highest decision-making body, is likely to meet on June 20 to finalise the NDA candidate. The nominations are likely to take place on June 23.

A politician who follows the saffron ideology but is acceptable to parties outside NDA is likely to be the candidate, people familiar with the matter said. BJP chief Amit Shah met Shiv Sena head Uddhav Thackeray at the latter’s residence in Mumbai to discuss the presidential polls. Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis was present during the meeting.

Though a part of the NDA, Shiv Sena has suggested the names of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and agriculture scientist MS Swaminathan for the top post on its own. It has kept BJP guessing about whether it will extend support to the NDA nominee. In the past two presidential elections, Shiv Sena did not back the NDA candidate and supported Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee, respectively. However, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, said to be among the front runners, enjoys a good equations with Shiv Sena.

Thackeray reportedly disagreed with Shah’s suggestion during their meeting on Sunday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi be given the authority to choose the NDA nominee. BJP’s Maharashtra unit chief Raosaheb Dhanve was not part of the deliberations though he accompanied Shah to Matoshree, Thackeray’s residence. Union urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu held discussions on the issue with LJP chief and Cabinet colleague Ram Vilas Paswan as well as SP leaders Ram Gopal Yadav and Naresh Agarwal. BJP has already held confabulations with SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav.

The party has given certain suggestions, including fielding a politician acceptable across a broad spectrum, while indicating that it is open to supporting NDA, the people cited earlier said. In 2002, BJP had accepted SP’s choice of APJ Abdul Kalam and nominated him as the NDA candidate. Paswan told Naidu that his party will go by the PM’s decision.
Finance and defence minister Arun Jaitley, who is back from an official visit to South Korea, talked to the TMC leadership on the issue. TMC is reportedly amenable to supporting NDA if it fields Swaraj. Jaitley also talked to the BJD leadership, which has maintained that it will take a call based on who is fielded by NDA. Naidu briefed Shah about the progress made during the day on zeroing in on a presidential candidate.