Sonia consults Mayawati on vice president, Left roots for Ansari


New Delhi : Left nominee for vice president former diplomat Hamid Ansari was one of the candidates whose names were sent by Congress president Sonia Gandhi to Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati Friday for evolving a consensus on the issue.

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Mayawati, also Uttar Pradesh chief minister, said Gandhi had suggested "a few names" for the post of vice president for her party's consideration.

Although Mayawati did not reveal the names, Left party sources said the list included Ansari, chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities who has emerged as the four-party Left's choice.

"She (Gandhi) called me up today (Friday) morning and suggested two or three names. She has also given their personal details," Mayawati told reporters here. "I will get back to her after consulting my party members."

CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat and senior leader Sitaram Yechury were believed to have mentioned Ansari during separate meetings with Gandhi, also the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chief, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday.

A triangular fight for the post of vice president is expected with the eight-party United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) proposing Samajwadi Party MP Rasheed Masood as their nominee and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) indicating it may field Najma Heptullah, Rajya Sabha MP and former deputy chairperson of the upper house.

Gandhi's move comes a day after MPs and legislators across the country voted for a new head of state. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), Left parties and BSP supported Pratibha Patil, who is set to be the first woman president of the country.

Unlike the electoral college for presidential election, state legislators will not vote in the vice presidential poll – only MPs can take part in the exercise.

The combined strength of the two houses is 790 MPs. While the Lok Sabha has 543 members, there are 233 members in the Rajya Sabha. There are 12 nominated members in the upper house and two in the lower house.

Taken together, the UPA, Left and BSP have a majority in parliament. The vice president is also the chief presiding officer of the Rajya Sabha.

The incumbent Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, who was an independent candidate backed by the opposition in Thursday's presidential election, is retiring on Aug 19. The election to the vice presidential post will take place on Aug 10.