India Politics
Exercise on for consensus on presidential candidate
May 14, 2007 - 9:04:50 PM

New Delhi, May 14 - The exercise for electing the next president is on, and as part of the government's move to evolve a consensus candidate, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will consult all political parties including the opposition.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi told reporters Monday that the prime minister would consult all political parties 'including the opposition' to find a consensus candidate with President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam's term ending in July.

The exercise to find a consensus is expected to be completed by May 17 or 18, sources indicated.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi may have plumped for Power Minster Sushil Kumar Shinde for the presidential post but support is not forthcoming from many of the allies and supporting parties.

The Left parties, against a second term for Kalam, are not averse to Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee occupying the post.

However, Deputy Leader of Communist Party of India-Marxist - in the Lok Sabha, Mohammed Salim, said, 'there is no CPI-M candidate'.

Asked about Chatterjee's candidature for the post, he said: 'Nobody is ruling out anything.'

Within Congress circles the other names doing the rounds are those of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister Shivraj Patil and veteran party leader Karan Singh.

The Left has been focusing on a person with a political background as they feel it is essential that any individual occupying the highest constitutional post should be well versed with the constitution.

They feel it is important since the person will be in office when the 2009 Lok Sabha elections are held and in the event of a hung parliament, the occupant of the Rashtrapati Bhavan would play a crucial role in government formation.

Meanwhile, tribal MP Robert Kharshing of the Nationalist Congress Party - from Meghalaya is carrying on a lone campaign for a tribal leader to be elected to this office. The NCP is headed by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.

'We have never had a tribal as our president and it is time a tribal leader is elected to this office,' Kharshing told IANS.

He plans to mobilise support among the tribal members of parliament who have a forum and had campaigned vigorously for the Forest Bill giving rights to tribals on forest land.

CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury said that the United Progressive Alliance-Left combine needed 549,442 votes of the total 1.09 million to ensure its nominee's victory. The Congress had 280,000 while the share of its allies is 114,647 and the Left claimed 110,988 votes.

The communist leader also expressed hope that Uttar Pradesh arch-rivals Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party - would support them to evolve a consensus over a common candidate.

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