Vice president poll: UPA renominates Ansari, BJP bracing for contest (Roundup)
New Delhi, July 14 (IANS) Incumbent Hamid Ansari was Saturday named by the ruling UPA as its candidate for the vice presidential poll but Trinamool Congress did not concur with the alliance's choice and possibility of his unanimous re-election evaporated within hours as the BJP pushed for a contest.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi made the announcement of Ansari's candidature for another term as vice president at a meeting of United Progressive Alliance (UPA) party leaders at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's official residence here.
Noting Ansari would soon complete his term, she said: "He has presided over Rajya Sabha with dignity and distinction. UPA is honoured to nominate him for a second term as vice president of India."
Home Minister P. Chidambaram later described Ansari's choice as "unanimous" though Trinamool Congress leader Mukul Roy said the party had suggested names of former West Bengal governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi and former MP Krishna Bose.
Leaders from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) were not present at the meeting though the party later said it was fully backing Ansari.
NCP sources told IANS that the party is peeved with the Congress over the manner in which it "had fiddled with" the order of precedence in the cabinet and had sought to replace its leader Sharad Pawar with Defence Minister A.K. Antony as the de facto number two. Pranab Mukherjee, who is the UPA's presidential candidate, was earlier de facto number two in the cabinet.
NCP sources said it was the first occasion when no leader from the party had attended a meeting of the UPA.
Shortly after the decision to make Ansari vice-presidential candidate was made, Manmohan Singh and Gandhi congratulated him.
Ansari said he accepted his re-nomination "with all humility".
The prime minister had spoken to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani before the UPA meeting to seek support for Ansari. Soon after the decision, Manmohan Singh called up Samajawadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, both of whom "welcomed the decision".
Manmohan Singh also spoke to Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Prakash Karat.
Sources said Manmohan Singh also spoke to BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.
The BJP, which held a meeting after UPA declared its candidate, said it will contest the Aug 7 poll but failed to make an announcement of its candidate due to lack of consensus in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) over the issue.
"We have decided to contest the vice president election," BJP leader Ananth Kumar told reporters after the party's core group met at party president Nitin Gadkari's residence.
"We will discuss the issue with NDA allies July 16. We will also talk to other political parties," he added.
The names of BJP leaders Najma Heptulla, Jaswant Singh and Murli Manohar Joshi have been making the rounds as probable candidates.
The party is treading cautiously as the Janata Dal-United and the Shiv Sena have broken ranks with it to support Mukherjee in the July 19 presidential poll.
After the UPA meeting, Chidambaram told reporters that the decision to nominate Ansari was "accepted by all leaders present" and all parties, including the Trinamool Congress, applauded the announcement.
"Of course, (there was) unanimous decision at the meeting," he said.
Roy, who represented his Trinamool Congress, at the meeting, however, signalled there had been no unanimity.
"We spoke our names. They conveyed their names... I will go back to the party. The party will decide," he said.
He said some other names were also suggested at the UPA meeting but did not elaborate.
Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee has also not concurred with the Congres on its choice of Mukherjee as the presidential candidate.
Ansari, 75, was elected vice president in 2007 and his term will come to an end Aug 10.
Election for the vice president's post is scheduled Aug 7. Last date for filing nominations is July 20.
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