BJD sticks to stand, to back Sangma as Prez candidate

Bhubaneswar: With NDA yet to finalise its stand on presidential poll and P A Sangma refusing to opt out of race, the state Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who was the first to moot the NCP leader`s name, on Saturday said his party BJD supported the former Lok Sabha Speaker at this moment.

"Sangma, a distinguished person, is the candidate of my party … I hold this position at this moment today," Patnaik told reporters. Describing Sangma as a prominent tribal leader representing a minority community, the BJD supremo said the NCP leader hailed from one of the important parts of the country and happened to be an embodiment of many cultures. "I had announced his name as presidential candidate in the middle of last month," Patnaik said adding there is no change in BJD`s decision to back Sangma for the top post.

Incidentally the state also has vast tribal population while Sangma is a renowned tribal leader, he said. A day after UPA announced senior Congress leader and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as the presidential candidate, the ruling BJD in Odisha apparently seemed to be waiting for next move by Sangma, who insisted on contesting for the top post deapite his party NCP asking him to opt out.

Senior BJD leaders, who held two rounds of meetings on Friday night and Saturday on the issue, also seem to be waiting for NDA to come out with its view, sources said. "As of now there is no change in our decision on the presidential poll. BJD sticks to its support for Sangma, a prominent tribal leader. We are determined to back Sangma," senior MP and BJD Parliamentary Party leader Arjun Sethi told reporters after a two-hour meeting at the Naveen Niwas.

BJD Vice-President and Finance Minister Prafulla Ghadai said the party had proposed Sangma`s name for the top post taking into consideration his stature as a tribal leader for which he was respected across the country. "As long as Sangma is in the race for the post of President BJD will support him whole-heartedly. There is no question of changing our decision," he said. BJD was closely watching developments, Ghadai said, adding in case the former Lok Sabha leader decided to pull out of the race, the BJD supremo and senior leaders would take a fresh look at the matter.