Mumbai, June 19 (IANS) The Shiv Sena kept its ally BJP on tenterhooks on Monday as it remained non-committal on whether or not it will back the candidature of Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind for the Presidential election.
Sena MP Sanjay Raut told the media that BJP President Amit Shah called up Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray after announcing Kovind as its candidate for the July 17 election.
“Shah informed him (Thackeray) about the BJP choice and also sought the Shiv Sena’s support for Kovind’s candidature,” Raut said.
On his part, Thackeray maintained his earlier stance and said he would call a meeting of the Shiv Sena to discuss the issue before taking a final decision within a couple of days.
The oldest and most prominent ally of the BJP, Thackeray told Shah on Sunday that his party would take a decision only after the BJP’s Presidential nominee was named.
Raut reiterated that the Shiv Sena was keen on the candidature of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat or eminent agro-scientist M.S. Swaminathan.
However, he told the media that Thackeray “will address all your doubts” at the Shiv Sena’s 51st anniversary of founding function scheduled later Monday evening in Mumbai.
In the past, on two occasions, the Shiv Sena had deviated from the NDA line by supporting UPA candidates: in 2007 when Pratibha Patil won the election and in 2012 when incumbent Pranab Mukherjee was elected.
On the first occasion, the late Sena supremo Bal Thackeray had thrown his lot behind Patil on grounds that she was the first Maharashtrian and a woman to ccupy the top constitutional post.
Patil defeated NDA candidate and Vice President B.S. Shekhawat.
In 2012, Mukherjee personally called up and later met Thackeray soliciting his support, which the Sena chief offered, going against the BJP-supported NDA candidate, the late P.A. Sangma.
This time round, the Sena stance on Kovind’s candidature would be considered crucial as it is a ruling NDA partner both at the centre and in Maharashtra.