PM to intervene for allies’ consensus over next president


New Delhi : The Congress may get Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on board to woo allies to support its presidential candidate, with Home Minister Shivraj Patil appearing to be the party's choice.

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External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, along with Defence Minister A.K. Antony and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, is consulting allies on ensuring their support for the Congress candidate. However, the allies have not been officially informed about the party candidate.

The choice is expected to be conveyed to them by Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi next week. The prime minister may also speak to non-United Progressive Alliance (UPA) allies like the Telugu Desam Party and the National Conference.

Important alliance leaders including ministers have been requested to remain in the national capital on Tuesday and Wednesday, when both Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi are to meet them. Sonia, who is abroad on a brief holiday, will return Monday or Tuesday.

While Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), a crucial factor in the presidential elections, has assured its support for Patil, the Left, which had earlier voiced its reservations against the home minister's candidature, has not yet reviewed its decision.

Left sources have told IANS that they do not view Patil as a man with "impeccable secular credentials".

"Left leaders are of the view that Patil could not be expected to be a neutral person. The Left wants a secular and absolutely impartial person in Rashtrapati Bhavan," said a senior Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader who did not wish to be identified.

However, CPI-M leaders said they would discuss the issue again. Manmohan Singh and Gandhi are also expected to have another round of discussions with the Left leaders next week.

Contrary to media reports, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) reiterated that it would support the UPA candidate. NCP chief and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar had earlier clarified that his party would support the Congress nominee for the presidential poll scheduled for July.

On Saturday, NCP leader and Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel reiterated his party's position that it would support the Congress nominee.

The Congress seems to have zeroed in on Patil as he is the party president's first choice. She was authorised by the Congress Woking Committee last week to choose the candidate.

The UPA-Left combine needs 549,442 of the total 1.09 million votes to ensure the victory of its nominee in the presidential polls. The Congress has 280,000 while the share of its allies is 114,647. The Left claims 110,988 votes, while the BSP has 57,200.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Samajwadi Party and others have 511,000 in the electoral college.

An electoral college of MPs and legislators across the country elect the president. The value of a legislator's vote is decided on the basis of the state's population. An MP's vote value is 708.