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Congress in Prez jam
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

Pranab denies being candidate

Pranab MukherjeeExternal Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday dismissed as “speculative and tendentious” media reports which suggested that he was one of the candidates for Presidential elections. 

D-day: July 19

The election of the President will take place on July 19 and the counting of votes will be held on July 21. Chief election commissioner N. Gopalaswami said in New Delhi, “The nominations can be submitted from Saturday and the last date of nominations will be June 30.

New Delhi, June 13
Caught in a dilemma with the Left expressing reservations about the candidature of union home minister Shivraj Patil, currently a frontrunner for the high office of President, emergency consultations are under way with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK supremo M Karunanidhi calling on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Congress president Sonia Gandhi was also present at the hour-long meeting.

Certain Left leaders insist that the Congress cannot thrust its nominee down the throat of a coalition arrangement, underlining the need for a consensual approach. The Left parties are hardening their stance that the Congress leaders holding parleys with them are coming forward with new names in a trickle, further complicating the situation.

Even in the Congress ranks, Patil, a loyalist, does not enjoy widespread support amid growing apprehensions that if he is pitted against vice-president Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, there could be cross voting, which could prove embarrassing for the Congress-led UPA.

Clearly, there appears to be a rethink at the highest level in the Congress even after BSP chief Mayawati has stressed that the nominee for the President has been sewn up and would be announced by Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Mayawati refused to elaborate further on the issue.

The Left insists that Patil does not meet the parameters set by them on who is best suited for the high office. The NCP and the RJD have already thrown their weight behind the Congress nominee for the President's post.

The Left leaders are expected to meet Karunanidhi tomorrow. CPI leaders A.B. Bardhan and D. Raja met NCP leader and union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and RJD president Lalu Prasad Yadav and were informed that the Congress has not yet made up its mind.

It clearly seems that the Left leaders wanted them to back their initial choice of external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee.

It is apparent that all sides are biding time with the NDA deciding to postpone its meeting for Monday. By all indications, the NDA is expected to back the candidature of Shekhawat as an independent.

Yet again, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee has sought to debunk suggestions that he continues to be the UPA nominee. Regretting that a number of “speculative and tendentious stories” involving his name have appeared in the print and electronic media, he said in a statement today that he had clarified his position on May 18 and expressed his gratefulness for the trust and confidence placed in him by some leaders. He reiterated that the Congress leadership decided his role in the party and government. “There is no room for any further speculation on the matter,” he said.

Mukherjee said the UPA chairperson would announce the name of the Congress candidate after completing the process of consultations with UPA allies and supporting parties.

“I am confident that the decision of the Congress will have the full support of all our allies and parties.”

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