Mumbai (AsiaNews) - A very curious situation is looming in India. For the first time, a Catholic politician is running for president of the country. But what's even more strange is that Purno Agitok Sangma has the support of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the pro-Hindu party. Purno was a member of the Congress (the ruling party, ed) and former president of the Lok Sabha (Lower House or House of the People). But when in 1998 the problem arose of electing Sonia Gandhi as president of the Congress, he - along with Sharad Pawar - left the party to form the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). Now, to present his candidacy, Sangma has left the NCP. And at a press conference, the BJP has announced that Sangma, a tribal Catholic and native of Meghalaya (a Northeastern state), will be its candidate for the presidential elections on July 19.
Sushma Swaraj, leader of the BJP, said: "Since the Congress did not want to make a prior consultation with us, we decided that Sangma is the most suitable candidate. We had two names: A.P.J. Abdul Kalam [former president of India, ed] and Sangma. Kalamji did not contest the choice to support Sangma". The announcement came a day after the Catholic politician's withdrawal from the Nationalist Congress Party, which instead has not supported his presidential race.
For several weeks, even many Catholic associations have underscored the need for a Christian president, as Muslims, Sikhs and Dalits have already led the country. The first to propose Sangma's name were J Jayalalithaa and Biju Patnaik, the respective chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Orissa.
Sangma says he is not the candidate of a single party, but a representative of the 100 million tribals in India. "I'm happy about the support of the BJP", he said, "but it isn't the only party. Also the Akali Dal [Sikh party, ed], the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha [or Jharkhand Liberation Front, the local party claiming the regional autonomy of the states in India, ed] and other smaller parties have expressed their support."
Meanwhile, the Congress has indicated Pranab Mukherjee, former Minister of Finance of the Government, as its candidate. However, he doesn't have the support of all the allies of the Congress. Among these are also the Shiv Sena (an ally of the BJP, ed.) and the Janata Dal (secular party, an ally of the Congress, ed.) Sangma has said to precisely these groups that he would ask "in person" for their support for his candidature.