BJP defends decision to contest prez polls

Patna: The BJP today defended its decision to contest the presidential polls in which its has endorsed the former lok sabha speaker P.A. Sangma`s candidature against the UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee and said that the election for the top post was an integral part of democracy. "It (contest on the prez poll) is not only good for democracy, but also an integral part of democracy," the BJP national spokesman Ravishankar Prasad told reporters here.

Barring the election of the former president Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy in 1977, all presidential polls have been contested, he said and justified the BJP`s decision to endorse Sangma`s candidature against Mukherjee in the ensuing elections for the top constitutional post of the country. Prasad said that it was not that the BJP was not in favour of consensus in the presidential polls, but the Congress-led UPA government did not take initiative to evolve a consensus with the opposition on this issue.

He said that his party chose to contest the presidential polls against the UPA nominee, who also happened to be the finance minister. This was to protest Mukherjee`s s mishandling of economic issues that caused price rise and inflation and his refusal to make public the names of those people having stashed away black money abroad and failure t take steps to bring back the wealth lying in foreign banks.

In an apparent attempt to restore unanimity in the NDA on supporting Sangma`s candidature in the presidential polls, the senior BJP leader urged Shiv Sena and the JD(U) to review their decision to support Mukherjee`s candidature. The JD(U) and Shiv Sena have established their identity as non-Congress parties and, therefore, they should review their decision to support the UPA nominee in the presidential polls and rally behind Sangma`s candidature, he said.

Prasad also denied reports that the relations between the BJP and JD(U) have soured after the latter decided to back Mukherjee`s candidature and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar called for a secular person to be projected as the NDA`s prime ministerial candidate. Prasad said that the two parties have been together since 1996 and contested together nine elections – five general elections and four assembly polls in Bihar. On the name of the prospective NDA`s prime ministerial candidate, he said that a decision will be taken by the NDA parliamentary board at an appropriate time.

Referring to Kumar`s advocacy of a secular person to be projected as the NDA`s prime ministerial candidate for the next general elections, the BJP said that the controversy over `secular PM` is `unfortunate` and `baseless` as the BJP is a secular party. "It is not fair to question BJP`s secular image," Prasad said and reminded the detractors that nine Christian leaders have been elected to the Goa state assembly on the saffron party ticket in the assembly polls earlier this year and Nagaland state assembly too has Christian BJP MLAs.

"The BJP believes in secularism to the core of its ideology and at the same time it staunchly stands for nationalism," he said, adding that even the Sachchar committee report has lauded the BJP-ruled states for work towards alleviation of the minorities in their states. The Sachchar committee has said in its report that the performance of the BJP-ruled states has been better than the Congress-ruled states as far as the condition of the minorities were concerned, Prasad said.