|Why didn't UPA consider only women candidates?|
PROTOCOL SET ASIDE: Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat comes out after meeting Rajasthan Governor and UPA's Presidential candidate Pratibha Patil in New Delhi on Saturday.
NEW DELHI: Rejecting bids by the United Progressive Alliance to arrive at consensus on the Presidential candidate, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Saturday said such attempts were not made "in the spirit of consensus."
Senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said here that a contest was a certainty as the National Democratic Alliance would formally declare its support for Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat at its meeting on June 18.
Mr. Shekhawat will run for President as an independent. Claiming that the UPA's candidature of Rajasthan Governor Pratibha Patil was "made under compulsion," Ms. Swaraj said it was "neither the first, nor the preferred and certainly not the natural choice" of the ruling coalition. It was now presenting the "fake argument" of fielding a woman.
"Fear of defeat"
Ms. Swaraj said the fear of defeat was haunting the UPA, and its constituents agreed to Ms. Patil's candidature to save the alliance.
To a query why the BJP could not support a woman candidate for President, Ms. Swaraj asked if the UPA was so keen on fielding a woman why it did not consider the names of only women candidates? Before and after Ms. Patil's candidature, many male candidates were proposed, she said. The Congress' first choice was Home Minister Shivraj Patil, while External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee was the Left parties' first preference.
Ms. Swaraj said consensus could not be reached as "loyalty to the Gandhi family" appeared the sole criterion for narrowing down the choice to Ms. Patil. "Loyalty to one family vs. loyalty to the Constitution and the nation" would become a major poll issue.
Confident of the victory of the NDA-supported candidate, she said the Presidential polls were not contested on party symbols. "Mr. Shekhawat has a great stature. He resigned from the BJP the moment he assumed office of Vice-President. All Presidential candidates are in fact independents and all of them can appeal to the electoral college; there is no concept of cross-voting as there is no party whip and there is no arithmetic."
To another query, Ms. Swaraj said the Shiv Sena would also support Mr. Shekhawat's candidature and it would announce its decision on June 19.
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