M A I N   N E W S

UPA now focuses on V-P nominee; Ansari has edge
KV Prasad/TNS

New Delhi, July 8
Now that its presidential election nominee Pranab Mukherjee is busy campaigning for the July 19 election, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has got down to finalising its candidate for the Vice-Presidentís election to be held next month.

While names of few possible candidates have begun doing the rounds, one thing is certain that it is not yet time for incumbent Vice-President Hamid Ansari to pack his bags.

Sources in the Congress told The Tribune that Ansari is among the persons who would be considered for the post.

Ansari was the other name that the UPA had favoured to be its nominee for the presidential election but after he lost out to Pranab Mukherjee, reports speculating his exit from the Vice-Presidentís post began appearing.

Sources said the Congress Core Committee, which met last Friday, held preliminary discussions on the issue. More rounds would be held during the coming weeks with the announcement of the candidate expected after mid-July.

Party sources also said there is a view that the search for a Vice-Presidential candidate should begin only after Pranab Mukherjee officially ends his campaign on July 15.

According to tentative plans, the UPA-sponsored candidate is scheduled to visit Chandigarh on the day to seek support from the legislators of Punjab and Haryana.

With the Electoral College for Vice-President consisting of 770 Members of Parliament including the nominated category, Congress strategists are confident that its nominee will have a smooth sailing.

According to an early estimate, the strength of the UPA plus supporting parties should easily cross 400.

As for the presidential poll, the Congress leadership is still hopeful that Mamata Banerjee may relent since a number of her party MPs and legislators want to support the candidature of Pranab Mukherjee.

In the worst case scenario, the Congress leaders feel that the Trinamool Congress chief may also suggest that her party abstain from taking part in the poll - just as the Communist Party of India and the Revolutionary Socialist Party did after disagreeing with the CPM and All-India Forward Blocís endorsement of the UPA candidate.

Recently, Pranab Mukherjee called up CPM general secretary Prakash Karat to thank him for the support and appreciated his statement explaining the reasons for their stand.

On its part, the Congress does not want to push Mamata Banerjee out of the United Progressive Alliance since it would make the coalition vulnerable and more dependent on the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party





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