In a surprise move, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), and the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa have announced the name of former Lok Sabha speaker P A Sangma as their candidate for the coming presidential election. This is despite Sangma’s own party, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), not supporting him for the top post.
Interestingly, Sangma’s name has been forwarded by members of Opposition parties, when his own daughter, Agatha Sangma, is minister of state in the rural development ministry and NCP is a member of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
Soon after Sangma’s name was announced by Patnaik, BJD members of Parliament (MPs) were taken aback by the unilateral decision, because he had recently directed all BJD MPs and members of legislative assemblies to discuss the names of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Vice-President Hamid Ansari for the top post.
“I think P A Sangma ought to be the candidate for the highest post of the Rashtrapati Bhavan,” Patnaik told reporters in Bhubaneswar. The Odisha chief minister also said he had spoken to Jayalalithaa on the issue.
Surprised by the sudden announcement of Sangma’s name, National Democratic Alliance (NDA) leaders decided not to reveal their strategy, but wait for the Congress party to announce its candidate for the president’s post. Members of NDA believe it would be too early to reveal their cards and have decided not to comment on the names being suggested.
“Half of the population of Odisha is tribal, and P A Sangma is a Christian and a tribal from the Northeast. India has never had a President from the Northeast. He was earlier the Lok Sabha speaker and has good relations with all the political parties. We think he is a good candidate to become the President,” said Arjun Charan Sethi, a senior BJD leader.
Sangma’s name was being discussed by both Patnaik and Jayalalithaa, and the former speaker had met the Tamil Nadu chief minister in Chennai recently. Patnaik, too, had met Jayalalithaa a few days earlier when he visited the state.
Senior BJD leaders indicated Jayalalithaa, chief of the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, was talking to senior leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA and was trying to secure support for Sangma. However, they insisted they were neither part of NDA nor UPA, but a different political group.