Mumbai : United Progressive Alliance (UPA) candidate Pratibha Patil's chances in the July 19 presidential poll brightened as the Shiv Sena, a constituent of the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Monday declared its support for her.
"This is going to be a moment of pride for Maharashtra that a Maharashtrian will be occupying the top post in the country for the first time," said Sena chief Bal Thackeray in a statement.
He criticized Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, who filed his nomination Monday as an independent candidate supported from outside by the NDA, for showing readiness to withdraw from the race if President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam were to contest.
Thackeray had earlier targeted Kalam for the delay in carrying out the death sentence for Mohamamd Afzal, convicted for his role in the December 2001 parliament attack case. Afzal's mercy petition is pending before the president.
Since June 18 when UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi announced Patil's name as the ruling alliance candidate, the Sena had avoided committing itself to supporting Shekhawat.
Patil's candidature has been supported by the Left parties and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).