Syed Amin Jafri in Hyderabad
Telugu Desam Party president and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu on Monday reiterated that the next President of India should be elected by consensus, but expressed his willingness to go to Delhi to discuss the issue again, if called by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
In an informal chat with newsmen on the sidelines of NASSCOM strategy summit in Hyderabad, Naidu said, "At an important time when the country is facing a war-like situation, it is better to have consensus on the choice of the President."
At the same time, he claimed that he had not suggested any names to the prime minister, but left the choice to him.
"Yesterday evening, the prime minister spoke to me over phone for consultation on the President's poll issue. On June 4, I met him in Delhi and requested him to evolve a consensus. The TDP left the decision to him. He is going to decide by evolving a consensus," Naidu said.
"I did not suggest any names at anytime. I only said it is time to have consensus," he said, and shot down a question whether he was backing the candidature of Maharashtra Governor Dr P C Alexander for the President's post.
"Don't create problems for the dignitaries," he said.
To another query whether he would go to Delhi if the prime minister called him, he said, "I will go."
Union Minister for Information Technology and Parliamentary Affairs Pramod Mahajan said he was totally in agreement with what Naidu had stated.
He said that the prime minister was trying to have a consensus candidate for the presidential election by holding consultations with the Telugu Desam, NDA constituents as well as the opposition parties.
"We are trying our level best to have consensus candidate in the near future," he said.
Mahajan said that the prime minister was in constant touch with Naidu on the issue.
"The consultations may be in person or over phone," he said.
Mahajan said, "Names are not mentioned by anyone in the NDA. The Congress, Samajwadi Party and other opposition parties spoke out some names. Neither the NDA constituents nor the Telugu Desam suggested any names during their consultations with the Prime Minister, who has been authorised to take a decision."
The Union minister said that there was lot of speculation in the media on the issue and half a dozen names were mentioned in recent days.
"They are all said to be presidential candidates according to the media. You cannot have half a dozen Presidents. You can have only one. If we can't decide the consensus candidate, we don't want to decide it through the media," he said.
He added, "Whatever names you (media) have mentioned, they are all very important. All are equal. They are high dignitaries."
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