Left not keen on Patil as presidential candidate


New Delhi : Amid signs that Home Minister Shivraj Patil would be the United Progressive Alliance's (UPA) presidential candidate, the Left Tuesday appeared to be mounting pressure on the ruling coalition to change its choice.

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After a meeting of four leftist parties here, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Prakash Karat said: "There is no change in the Left stand over the criteria" they had put forward for the presidential candidate.

The Left says any president of India should have impeccable secular credentials.

Karat said the Congress had thus far not put out any name as the presidential candidate. He said the Left would take a final decision after discussions with DMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi here Wednesday.

However, sources in the Left said that if the UPA allies and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) form a consensus over Patil's name, the communists would be "forced" to support him.

Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat is expected to contest as an independent candidate in July, backed by the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies.

"What else can we do if the UPA forms a consensus over Patil as the difference between the UPA and NDA will be narrow. The Left can't even abstain from the election since it might give an advantage to NDA," said a Left leader.

The Left parties indicated that they were still keen on External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, whose name has apparently been ruled out by the UPA saying that he was "indispensable to the government".

Also attending the Left meeting Tuesday were leaders of the Communist Party of India, Revolutionary Socialist Party and Forward Bloc.