May 04, 2012 Friday NC
Will Pranab be the 'consensus' President candidate?
With the race to the ‘Rashtrapati Bhawan’ intensifying, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will on Friday hold discussions with Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to evolve a consensus over the presidential candidate.
Besides discussing the approaching Presidential elections, the Trinamool Congress chief is also expected to discuss the issue of a three-year moratorium on annual interest payable on outstanding loans taken by her state.
If sources are to be believed, Trinamool leader’s stand on the presidential polls will depend on whether she manages to win a moratorium for the debt-ridden state.
The West Bengal Chief Minister yesterday held discussions with Congress President Sonia Gandhi and SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav separately over the best possible choice for the country’s top job.
She later met Gandhi's political secretary Ahmed Patel.
Although, she refused to divulge details of her meeting with Sonia Gandhi and other leaders, is being said that she has still not open her cards as to which of the top presidential candidates will get her party’s support.
However, she had indicated that her party will back the UPA's choice of the presidential candidate if her demands are met.
The Congress is pitching for Vice President Hamid Ansari and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as probable UPA choices for the July presidential polls. The BJP has ruled out support for any of them.
Even as confusion prevails and there seems to be no political consensus over a unanimous candidate, Pranab Mukherjee has appeared as the frontrunner in the presidential race.
Mukherjee, who is known to have friends cutting across party lines, may make it to the Rashtrapati Bhavan as Pratibha Patil’s successor.
However, the chances of Vice President Hamid Ansari becoming a UPA sponsored candidate are also not being ruled out completely given the fact that the running of the government is highly dependent on Mukherjee's utility as a troubleshooter, Congress sources said. The final decision depends on the party leadership, which has to take the call whether to spare Mukherjee for the constitutional post. A senior leader said Mukherjee also stood a chance because the government has only two more years to go.
They said that other key constituents of UPA, DMK and NCP, have promised their support to Congress and much would depend on what stand TMC, the second largest party in UPA, takes.
Significantly, BJP ally JDU came out in support of both Pranab and Ansari.
Advocating “maximum consensus”, the most important constituent of the Left front, CPM, said on Thursday that it is open to supporting the candidature of both Ansari and Mukherjee.
Left backing for Ansari seems natural as the VP has secured support of many other leaders including vocal Lalu Yadav. Ansari is a Muslim; he is articulate and has performed reasonably well - barring midnight drama over Lokpal Bill - as the chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
However, Left’s openness to Pranab is an interesting development as it may imply that the Left has made up its mind to go with whoever the Congress chooses as its nominee.
A senior SP leader speaking on the condition of anonymity said that Mukherjee was the most apt choice for President's post and his party would have no problem supporting him.
Party sources said that they would "personally" prefer Pranab Mukherjee but would weigh political considerations in backing a Muslim candidate in the form of Ansari. The SP appears to be waiting for a formal approach from the Congress on the issue.
Earlier in 2007 too, Pranab’s name had emerged as a possible candidate to take over after APJ Abdul Kalam but his chances were scuttled by forces within the party’s itself citing the impossibility of let him retire from active politics.
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