Shekhawat not a BJP/NDA candidate: Sushma


New Delhi : Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat will not contest the presidential elections as a candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by it, a senior party leader has said.

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Shekhawat "can only be an independent candidate under the prevailing circumstances, because Bhairon Singhji will not be fielded by NDA. Bhairon Singhji, if at all he decides to contest, will be fielded as an independent candidate and NDA will only pledge its support," BJP leader Sushma Swaraj told CNN-IBN in an interview Wednesday.

Explaining the reasons for possibly fielding Shekhawat, a former BJP chief minister, as an independent, she said, "It's a number game. And you know there is quite a large gap between the NDA and UPA (United Progressive Alliance) numbers. Therefore, we want to explore with other parties from whom we are getting support.

"NDA has already authorised (former prime minister) Atal Behari Vajpayeeji to explore (options) with the other parties. It's a number game. And Atalji has not reported back to the NDA."

Swaraj's remarks come on a day when leaders of the "third front" parties – J. Jayalalithaa of the AIADMK, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh of Samajwadi Party, N. Chandrababu Naidu of Telugu Desam Party, Om Prakash Chautala of Indian National Lok Dal, Brindaban Goswami of Asom Gana Parishad and Vaiko of MDMK – met at Naidu's residence in Hyderabad and discussed the presidential election.

Vajpayee had called up Jayalalithaa to seek her support for Shekhawat and she had promised to discuss this matter at the Hyderabad meet.

Swaraj denied that the NDA was delaying the announcement of its candidate ahead of the UPA. "I don't think that is the issue. We are only waiting for Atalji to report to NDA."

The presidential election is due by July-end.