NEW DELHI, June 8:
Pranab Mukherjee’s name as the UPA candidate for the President’s post appeared to be gathering further momentum today and an announcement on it is expected next week.
UPA sources said Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who has been authorised by the party’s Working Committee to pick the candidate, is likely to make the announcement around June 15, probably a couple of days after the expected poll notification by the Election Commission.
Significantly, Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s Political Advisor Ahmed Patel had a meeting with Mukherjee at his North Block office.
The sources said the Congress has already secured the support of key allies like DMK, NCP and RLD, who form part of the Government, and outside supporters like Samajwadi Party.
BSP, another outside supporter, and UPA’s second largest constituent Trinamool Congress, are not expected to oppose the UPA candidate.
The sources said though Mamata Banerjee had taken the name of Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and a couple of others as her favourite, her party is expected to toe the UPA line once Mukherjee’s name is announced, the logic being that TMC cannot be expected to oppose a candidate from Bengal for the top post.
The sources also made it clear that no names were considered at the meeting of the Congress Core Group this morning, which was attended by Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and some other leaders.
Meanwhile, former Lok Sabha Speaker P A Sangma, who has been named by AIADMK and BJD as their candidate, met BJP leader L K Advani today to seek NDA’s support for him.
A senior Congress leader, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the process for deciding the candidate for the top post is going on “expected lines”.
“The process is going on expected lines. There could be a broader consensus”, the leader said.
His remarks came close on the heels of a meeting of the Congress top brass, including Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and party chief Sonia Gandhi, was held in the backdrop of several pressing issues before the party and the Government.
Asked whether the candidate for Presidential and Vice Presidential elections will be announced simultaneously, the leader said “it depends on how the negotiations advance”.
Gandhi had yesterday held consultations with senior party leader A K Antony and DMK leaders T R Baalu and M K Stalin on the issue of the Presidential candidate.
On May 5, DMK supremo M Karunanidhi had said he has no objection if Pranab Mukherjee is chosen as UPA’s presidential candidate. Last month, Gandhi had sent Antony to Chennai to take Karunanidhi on board on the issue.
The Congress Working Committee had at its meeting earlier this week passed a resolution authorising Gandhi to decide candidates for the presidential and vice presidential elections.
Gandhi had on Tuesday also met RLD chief Ajit Singh. The RLD chief had later said Mukherjee was “qualified” for the highest constitutional post and his views were “positive” on others as well.
Election Commission is expected to issue the notification for the election next week. Incumbent Pratibha Patil’s term ends on July 25. (PTI)
NEW DELHI, June 8: