Pratibha Patil in Delhi, meets Sonia Gandhi


New Delhi : Pratibha Patil, the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) candidate for president, arrived in Delhi Saturday to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi and held discussions with her in the run-up to the July 19 election.

Support TwoCircles

The soft-spoken Congress leader from Maharashtra, who is presently Rajasthan governor, reiterated what she had said soon after her surprise nomination two days ago.

"My candidature for the top post is a big step for women. I am very happy to be selected as the UPA candidate. This shows that India has a lot of respect for women," the 72-year-old Patil told reporters here soon after her arrival from Jaipur.

Patil pointed out that her candidature would "inspire" other women and help in their empowerment.

"But empowerment will not come automatically. They will have to work for it," Patil added, as hundreds thronged the airport to catch a glimpse of India's prospective woman president.

Patil is likely to call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh later in the day.

If elected, which seems almost certain as the numbers are stacked in her favour, the Congress leader will be the nation's 12th president.

All the previous occupants of Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential palace, have been men, including incumbent A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who steps down next month after an eventful five-year tenure.

Patil's visit to Delhi assumes significance after the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) conveyed informally its resolve to back Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat's candidature in spite of Prime Minister Singh's appeal to the NDA to support Patil's candidature.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has already announced that it will support Shekhawat as its candidate for president and is scheduled to hold a meeting on Monday to discuss the elections.