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'Kalam's decision appropriate, Mamata should back Pranab'

June 18, 2012 20:09 IST

Terming as "appropriate" the decision by her favoured candidate A P J Abdul Kalam to pull out of the Presidential race, Congress renewed its appeal to Mamata Banerjee to back UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee.

In an apparent move to mollify Banerjee, the AICC also snubbed party general secretary Digvijay Singh, who had dubbed the Trinamool Congress supremo as "erratic" and "immature" and had given signals that the party's patience with her was running out.

"Digvijay Singh is not officially authorised to speak on behalf of the party," the AICC said in a media release.

The Congress also hailed Kalam's decision to opt out of the race as "appropriate".

"Former President Kalam is a very distinguished person.

We have highest respect for him. We hold him in high esteem. If in his wisdom, he has taken a decision, it must obviously be an appropriate decision," party spokesperson Manish Tewari said.

Referring to the statement on Digvijay, Tewari said messages are sent by the AICC media department according to party directive.

He dubbed as "resting on erroneous assumption" questions over Congress' options if Banerjee walks out of the alliance.

He said the party "would like West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress leader to support the candidature of Mukherjee".

Tewari also pointed out that Pranab Mukherjee described the Trinamool Congress chief as his sister and had made a personal appeal to vote for him in the Presidential election.

Replying to a query, Tewari dismissed as "very hypothetical" questions regarding Samajwadi Party joining the UPA ahead of the Presidential polls and said our appeal to all parties is for support to Mukherjee's candidature".

He also condemned Team Anna attacking Mukherjee saying it was "indeed very unfortunate that some people have got into the habit of making allegations against distinguished and senior leaders, who have spent decades in public life".

Giving a point to point rebuttal to allegation levelled by Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal, Tewari said "under these circumstances to drag Mukherjee's name is not only unfortunate but also politically motivated."

He said that it also "reflects the panic" among few sections with the wide political support Mukherjee's candidature is garnering.

"We do hope that people who work in public domain should be circumspect," he said.

Asked whether SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav can join the UPA, Tewari said "the question is very hypothetical. At this point of time. We are completely focussed on President poll."

The party spokesperson also downplayed Digvijay Singh's remarks that it was "not a bad idea" to give second term to Vice President Hamid Ansari.

"No formal consultation has taken place on the issue so far. We will come back to you when consultations happen and a decision is taken," Tewari said.

A party leader speaking on condition of anonymity said that Congress expects that NDA will also finally "rise above partisan" approach and back Mukherjee's candidature.

The leader felt that "except the few leaders with die hard anti-Congress DNA in the NDA, the rest will come around to support Mukherjee. Even the Akali Dal will see reason and back the UPA nominee."

The leader at the same rejected any possibility of any quid pro quo with NDA like Vice Presidentship to the Opposition alliance for its support to Mukherjee's Presidential candidature.

The leader also expressed hope that Banerjee will finally support the UPA candidate after Kalam is out as P A Sangma is "not a serious candidate".

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