Friday, May 17, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Presidential poll: Cong awaits PM’s word
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 16
The Congress today indicated that it was still waiting for Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to consult the party over choice of the next President. The Congress, which wanted a second term for President K.R. Narayanan, had not made any official announcement so far about the party’s support in the presidential poll.

Congress leaders, who had described Mr Narayanan as “magnificent” and “one of the exceptionally good Presidents,” said they had not contacted him to know his mind about a second term. “We will contact him after we learn about the Prime Minister’s proposals,” Congress chief spokesperson Jaipal Reddy said.

Congress leaders said the Prime Minister generally took a lead on the issue of the presidential poll and the party wanted to wait for such consultations. “But if he (Prime Minister) does not say, then we will decide,” Mr Reddy said. He indicated that the party was in no hurry to take a decision as “still there was time for the polls.”

Refusing to comment on the merits of any of the candidates whose names were doing the rounds in the media and in informal consultations among political parties, Mr Reddy said the Congress was in touch with other opposition parties on the issue.

Congress leaders felt that if Mr Narayanan were to seek a second term as President, it would be difficult for NDA allies, even for the BJP, not to back him.

With the Left parties having decided to support Mr Narayanan, Congress leaders felt that a new round of consultations among opposition parties would be needed only if Mr Narayanan decided against a second term.

Congress leaders had clearly said that no decision by the party would be made on the presidential election without consulting other opposition parties. There was speculation that Mr Vajpayee might talk to Congress President Sonia Gandhi on the choice of the next President before leaving for Manali.


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