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Uddhav asks Shah to reveal name before seeking support

Until now, 3-member committee of Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Venkaiah Naidu has held prez talks

Archis Mohan & PTI  |  New Delhi/Mumbai 

Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray. Photo: PTI
Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray. Photo: PTI

On Sunday, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief called on chief at the latter’s residence to discuss the coming presidential poll. This was a first for Shah to reach out on the issue. Until now, only the three-member committee of Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and M Venkaiah Naidu has held talks with allies as well as opposition leaders.

Meanwhile, Naidu held discussions with BJP ally Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan. He told Naidu his party would support whoever Prime Minister Narendra Modi picks to be the presidential candidate of the BJP-led Democratic Alliance. Naidu also spoke to leaders Ramgopal Yadav and Naresh Aggarwal. 
The SP leaders said their party would prefer that a “political person” be the President of India. Finance Minister Jaitley, who has returned from his official visit to South Korea, spoke with leaders in the Trinamool Congress and Biju Janata Dal. According to the sources, Naidu later briefed the BJP chief on his discussions.

Several of the allies and some in the Opposition have conveyed to the BJP leaders they would support whoever Prime Minister Modi picks as the presidential candidate of the NDA. But Thackeray told the BJP chief that his party would decide on its support only after it gets to know the name of the candidate.

Shah and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis visited Thackeray’s resident ‘Matoshree’ for a closed-door meeting. sources said the BJP chief told Thackeray that the PM would decide the NDA’s candidate for the highest constitutional post. To this, the Sena chief said his party would take a call on support after the BJP reveals its choice for president. Their meeting started around 10 am and lasted 75 minutes.

When Shah sought support for BJP’s nominee, Thackeray said he would first like to know the name of the candidate. The is the BJP’s oldest ally, but had backed Congress nominees Pratibha Patil in 2007 and Pranab Mukherjee in 2012. It had earlier said that it might choose an “independent” path in the election to the highest constitutional office.
The Sena, which has often been critical of the BJP and the Modi government, had earlier suggested the name of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat, who had later ruled himself out, and recently proffered the name of M S Swaminathan, the father of India’s Green Revolution. Not all is well between the Sena and BJP, which together run a coalition government in Mahrashtra. 

Asked about Fadnavis’ remark that the BJP was prepared for snap Assembly elections, in an apparent reference to the continued strain in ties with the Shiv Sena, Shah on Saturday, “What he meant was that if mid-term polls are forced on us, we are ready to fight.”