Tuesday, May 08, 2012 NC
Yashwant Sinha breaks party line, supports Pranab Mukherjee as President
Senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha broke with the party line on Monday, strongly supporting finance minister Pranab Mukherjee's credentials as a presidential candidate, lavishing praise during a debate on the Finance Bill and later endorsing the minister for the high post.
"Mukherjee will make a very good president," Sinha told media shortly after he heaped praise on one of Congress's probable choices for Rashtrapati Bhawan.
What began as banter in Lok Sabha assumed greater significance as Sinha told Mukherjee that he could do a few good turns before moving on: a clear reference to Mukherjee's possible elevation to Rashtrapati Bhavan. He said the minister could further raise the income tax exemption in keeping with the recommendation of a parliamentary committee headed by Sinha.
When the BJP leader, himself a former finance minister, said "ab to aap ja rahe hain", Mukherjee couldn't resist rising to his feet and observing amid laughter that "Are you determined to remove me from the finance ministry?"
Sinha continued to praise Mukherjee, saying he was the one minister who seemed to be doing well - while slamming the government for not getting its act together on governance. "So Mr finance minister, we wish you well personally. We wish you a very bright future. We wish you continue to serve this country, in whatever capacity, for many years to come."
Leader of opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj joked that Sinha's praise may "harm" Mukherjee's prospects. However, Sinha's ringing endorsement appeared to deviate from party's position Swaraj had outlined last week when she said no Congress nominee: neither the finance minister nor Vice-President Hamid Ansari would be acceptable to the BJP.
Approached after the debate, Sinha said he felt Mukherjee richly deserved the honour of being the President as he had wide experience of public life and the maturity required for the job. "He will make a very good president," he said.
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