Sonia announces Pratibha Patil as UPA candidate for president


New Delhi : Rajasthan Governor and veteran Congress leader from Maharashtra Pratibha Patil was proposed as the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA)'s candidate for the presidential post, paving the way for her to be India's first woman head of state.

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Addressing the UPA leaders and her Left allies after a meeting at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's residence here, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said: ""Through the process of consultation we have arrived at the name of the UPA nominee, that will be Pratibha Patil."

"It is a matter of great pride for the nation that on the historic moment of the 60th anniversary of our independence, we will have a woman president," she announced even as Manmohan Singh along with Congress and UPA leaders looked on.

Pointing out that the both she and the prime minister had "several rounds" of discussions over the candidate, Gandhi said:"All of you agreed that you would accept a Congress nominee. The prime minister and I met with you several times to discuss the issue. "

"We will coordinate the election together," she added.

In the meeting, DMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi was seated along with Manmohan Singh, Gandhi and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee at the head of the table.

The Congress leaders, including Defence Minister A.K Antony and Gandhi's political secretary Ahmed Patel along with the Left leaders, were sitting at the right side of the table, while other UPA allies were seated on the left side.

In the electoral college comprising of MPs and legislators to elect the president, the ruling UPA along with the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Left holds an edge over the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

The NDA is yet to officially announce its candidate though Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekawat's name was doing the rounds as an independent candidate supported by the opposition alliance.

The election is scheduled for July 19.