New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday made an attempt to bring to its side non-UPA parties, such as AIADMK, for the presidential polls, as it called a meeting of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to decide its strategy.
As the BJP called the meeting at senior BJP leader L.K. Advani's house at 11 a.m. Friday, Advani met Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK chief J. Jayalalithaa in Chennai and both agreed to "coordinate efforts" over the crucial polls.
Sources from the party say the opposition alliance will extend its hand towards more non-UPA parties post-Friday's meeting of NDA.
Advani, who was in Chennai with a parliamentary standing committee, told reporters after the meeting with Jayalalithaa that they "discussed at length" the possibilities on who would be the next president.
"All the issues have been discussed and we agreed that we will continue to be in touch and coordinate our efforts," Advani said.
Jayalalithaa said "we have discussed about the presidential election" but had nothing "specific to add".
Both leaders blamed the Congress for the clumsy handling of the polls.
"The recent events in Delhi, these have made the situation very dicey. I have never seen any earlier government handling an important election like that of the president so clumsily. So far as we are concerned, we are conscious of the fact that Congress and the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government are not able to build a consensus on the president even in its own camp," Advani said.
"We will coordinate and see that the decision for the country is taken properly," he added.
Jayalalithaa added: "That is true, the events of yesterday (Wednesday) showed the entire exercise has been botched very badly by the Congress."
She also said she did not want to "indulge in any kind of speculation" as no names had come out officially.
Responding to a query on whether he and Jayalalithaa had discussed former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam's candidature, Advani said "all names figured".
Talking about Friday's meeting, Advani, however, added that "it was not unlikely" that the NDA constituents would say the Congress should first decide on its presidential candidate.
After meeting with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee said Wednesday that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Vice President Hamid Ansari were the Congress's first and second choices for president.
An hour later, after a meeting with Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh, she put forth the names of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Kalam and former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee.
On Thursday, an upset Congress said it could not afford to spare Manmohan Singh and also rejected Kalam and Chatterjee for the presidential poll.
BJP spokesperson Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, meanwhile, said the announcement by the SP and Trinamool chiefs showed the allies lacked trust in the prime minister and Gandhi.
"They had raised questions on Manmohan Singh's leadership earlier, now they have raised question on Sonia Gandhi's leadership," Hussain said.
BJP's core group met Wednesday evening, but refused to comment on its preferences before the Congress announced its official candidate.
Sources say Kalam's name was discussed in the meeting, and may find favour with the party.
The UPA will also be meeting Friday over the presidential polls.