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Pranab as Prez poses big problems for PM, Sonia and co

Last updated on: June 9, 2012 01:14 IST

Pranab as Prez poses big problems for PM, Sonia and co

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Renu Mittal

The Congress is working on "evolving a general consensus" for naming the candidate for the next president of India with sources in the party confirming that Pranab Mukherjee appears to be the only name doing the rounds.

On the sidelines, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has been continuing her consultations with allies and chief ministers of smaller parties. She has yet to meet leaders of supporting parties like the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party.

Mulayam Singh Yadav-led SP has made it clear that they will support the Congress choice, but with the rider that the candidate had to be a politician and not a bureaucrat like Hamid Ansari.

Political Secretary to the Congress president, Ahmed Patel had a 50-minute meeting with Mukherjee on Friday evening after which he went to meet the Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

Patel's long visit to the finance ministry created a huge buzz in the corridors of North Block, as it was a very rare one. The meeting came after the two had met earlier in the day during the core committee meeting.

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Image: Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee
Photographs: PIB Photo

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Pranab as Prez poses big problems for PM, Sonia and co

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There is speculation that the Patel-Mukherjee discussion could have revolved around who would be the new finance minister in case the latter gets nominated. It is believed that there is pressure from industry and major corporates who want to have their own nominee on the hot seat.

Senior Congress leaders say that with just two years to go before the general elections and the government in big trouble on the economic front, there is consensus that the next finance minister must be a politician.

However, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has a different take on the entire issue. His candidates are all bureaucrats.

His first vote is for Montek Singh Ahluwalia and the second for C Rangarajan.

In 2009, despite intense pressure from Dr Singh, Sonia was adamant that she would not accept Ahluwalia and instead opted for Mukherjee as the finance minister.

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Photographs: PIB Photo

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Pranab as Prez poses big problems for PM, Sonia and co

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And now if the latter goes to Rashtrapati Bhawan, there would be the added task of choosing the Leader of the House, who has to be a senior minister in the government. The Congress would find it difficult to bring in someone who has the same level of competence.

Interestingly, all the leaders who have been meeting Sonia with regard to the presidential candidate issue have gone to meet Mukherjee soon after.

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader Stalin who met Sonia is learnt to have told her that his party was in favour of Mukherjee as President. In his meeting with Mukherjee later, he is learnt to have congratulated him and told him that after he becomes the Rashtrapati, the first visit must be to Tamil Nadu and not West Bengal.

Similarly, chief ministers of Sikkim and Mizoram also met Mukherjee after they met the Congress president.

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Photographs: PIB Photo

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Pranab as Prez poses big problems for PM, Sonia and co

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While it is not yet clear when the Election Commission would bring out the notification for the presidential poll, sources say that Sonia wants all the party's key allies to be present when the nomination papers are filed.

Word has already been sent that she would want DMK leader M Karunanidhi to second the nomination of the UPA's presidential candidate while she as the UPA chairperson would propose the name around June 16.

However, strangely, the prime minister is off for an official trip to Mexico and Brazil on June 15 and will return only on June 23.

His absence would be more than conspicuous and would lead to further speculation on what exactly is going on between the party and the government.

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Photographs: PIB Photo

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