Mulayam says no to Shekhawat, Shiv Sena adamant on Patil


New Delhi : Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, who is contesting for president as an independent backed by the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA), received a jolt Friday as the Samajwadi Party declined to support him in the July 19 election.

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Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh said his party would not vote in favour of either Shekhawat or the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-Left-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) combine's nominee Pratibha Patil.

Indicating that his party would abstain from the polls, Mulayam Singh said he considered both Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as two sides of same coin.

Shekhawat had appealed to the Samajwadi Party for support.

His hopes were also dashed on another front. Shiv Sena, one of the crucial allies in the NDA, refused to reconsider its decision to back Patil, as she belongs to Maharashtra.

In an television interview, Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray said his party's decision to support Patil was final. "This is the first time in history that somebody from Maharashtra, that too a woman, is going to serve the nation as its president. I am proud of this," he said.

Although Shekhawat had called for "conscience votes" as he claims a good rapport with leaders cutting across party lines, Patil's victory appears to be a foregone conclusion. In the electoral college of MPs and MLAs, the ruling UPA along with the Left and the BSP has a clear edge over the opposition.