Congress seeks to clarify numbers in presidential poll


New Delhi : In an attempt to counter the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s claim that Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, the independent presidential candidate it backs, was nearing majority in the July 19 election, the Congress Thursday published its voters’ details.

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According to Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-Left-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) combine’s candidate Pratibha Patil has been assured of at least 631,464 votes, much ahead of the required majority in the presidential poll.

While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has ensured only 246,957 votes in the electoral college of the MPs and MLAs, the undecided votes are 130,605, which include those of the recently formed third grouping United National Progressive Alliance, Dasmunsi said.

He was apparently referring to some reports that quoted BJP sources as saying that Shekhawat was short of only 5,000 votes to ensure his victory.

“We are already ahead of the required number of 548,500. Our tally will be increased in 24 hours,” Dasmunsi told reporters here.

Meanwhile, the war of words between the two coalitions continued Thursday with Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury calling BJP leaders the “Mickey Mouse Brigade”.

Taking strong exception to BJP leader L.K. Advani’s allegation that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was “appeasing terrorists”, Chowdhury said: “Congress has always been extra sensitive to terrorism. The BJP leader should remember that we have not provided ministerial escorts for terrorists.”

She was referring to the 1999 Indian Airlines hijacking when then foreign minister and BJP leader Jaswant Singh accompanied terrorists to Kandhar to negotiate the release of hijacked passengers.

Advani had alleged that Manmohan Singh’s remark about how he had spent a “sleepless night” thinking about the plight of the families of Indian nationals detained after the failed UK terror plot was tantamount to “appeasement of terrorists”.

Meanwhile, Patil, against whom the opposition has launched a scathing attack charging her of financial impropriety and shielding her brother in a murder case, was campaigning in Assam.