Pranab, Ansari favourites as race hots up for Prez poll

NEW DELHI, June 3:
The race for the Rashtrapati Bhawan has already heated up with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Vice-President Hamid Ansari emerging as favourites for the top post, even before the formal process for the election to the new President of India begins.
With the term of President Pratibha Patil coming to an end on July 25, final touches are being given to the preparations for the Presidential poll by the Election Commission.
A notification for the election of the new President could be issued soon, sources in the Election Commission said.
However, even before the notification for the polls, names of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Vice President Hamid Ansari have emerged as favourites.
Besides Mr Mukherjee and Dr Ansari, other names doing the rounds for the post are of former President A P J Abdul Kalam, Speaker Meira Kumar and former Lok Sabha Speaker P A Sangma.
Also in the running for the post of the President is the Granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi Sumitra Gandhi Kulkarni.
However, of all the names, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Vice President Hamid Ansari have emerged as frontrunners.
In the past weeks, the Congress has been holding consultations with its allies as well as other parties for a possible consensus for the post of the President.
Though Congress is yet to declare its nominee for the post of President, sources said the ruling party has been trying to evolve a consensus on the name of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee for the post.
In fact, a special meeting of the Congress Working Committee, the top decision making body of the party, tomorrow, called by the party to discuss the political and economic situation in the country, is also expected to deliberate on the possible names for the post of the President.
Though officially it has been said that the meeting would review the economic and political situation in the country and that the nominess for Presidential polls would not be discussed at the meet, sources say that the possible names for post being considered by the party would be discussed at the meeting which will be attended by members of the Congress working Committee, special invitees, permanent invitees, chiefs of the various PCCs and State CLP leaders and CMs of Congress ruled States.
They said the party might announce the name of its presidential candidate after the CWC meeting.
Officially, however, the party leaders have maintained a suspense on whether the party is considering Mr Mukherjee as its nominee for the post.
A few weeks ago, Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdhary stirred a controversy when she said that Mr Mukherjee was too important for the party and the government, when soon after, party spokesperson Rashid Alvi said, the Finance Minister could be ruled out for the post.
The candidature of Mr Mukherjee has also been supported by the Left parties who have indicated that they are not averse to the name of the Finance Minister for President, also makes Dr Mukherjee a frontrunner for the post.
Sources say that UPA ally Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is also supporting the Finance Minister’s name for the top constitutional post.
The BJP has, however, said it would not support the candidature of the Finance Minister.
Also, given the fact that the Finance Minister has proved to be UPA’s trouble shooter in many crisis situation and considering that the image of the UPA II is at an ebb following the poor show in the recent assembly elections and problems like price rise and inflation plaguing the party, the Congress may want to avail services of the Finance Minister till the next Lok Sabha polls.
Another name that has generated consensus both among the UPA as the Opposition parties is Vice President Hamid Ansari.
In fact, not only the allies of the party but others like the Samajwadi Party and the JD(U) have also expressed their support for Dr Ansari’s candidature.
Many parties favouring Dr Ansari’s candidature have said that the elevation of Dr Ansari to the post of President is as per the tradition in the country where many Vice Presidents have been elevated to President’s post.
Among other names in contention for the post of President is the name of former President A P J Abdul Kalam.
Though the BJP has backed the candidature of APJ Abdul Kalam for the next President of India and the Samajwadi Party has also expressed its suport for Dr Kalam’s candidature, it is not yet clear if Dr Kalam is keen to contest.
The name of Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar has also been mooted for President by Trinamool Chief Mamata Banerjee.
Also doing the rounds for the post of President is the name of former Lok Sabha Speaker P A Sangma whose candidature has been supported by Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha.
Ms Jayalalitha has written to BJP leader L K Advani to garner support for Mr Sangma as India’s first President from the tribal community.
Mr Sangma’s effort to garner support for his candidature from the Congress have, however, not borne fruit with Congress President Sonia Gandhi refusing to give him an audience.
What has added to his troubles is that his party NCP is not supporting his candidature. The NCP has said it would support the candidate proposed by its ally Congress.
Another name doing the rounds in political circles is that of Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter Sumitra Gandhi Kulkarni.
Those favouring her candidature say that Ms Kulkarni, a former elected Parliamentarian and a civil servant, has the perfect credentials for the post of President as a candidate with her character and identity and spotless profile will reassure the people about the committment of the Congress to gandhian values.
As per provisions, the notification for the election of the new President can be issued anytime after the 60th day preceding the date of completion of the term of the current President.
As the term of President Patil ends on July 25, the election for the new President has to be made before that. (UNI)


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