Left keen on vice president’s post


New Delhi : Even as a contest is on for the post of India's president, Left parties are making guarded moves to see if Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee can become the vice-president to succeed Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

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Although the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has not made any formal claim, preliminary discussions have taken place with some parties within the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and among the Left parties.

The first indication of the Left thinking came in the form of a report in the CPI-M's Malayalam newspaper 'Deshabhimani' that said the Left parties should get the vice-president's post as they are the largest ally of the Congress-led UPA.

Sources in Somnath Chatterjee's office indicated that he was not averse to the idea. They added that CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat had already indicated his party's keenness in making the claim to UPA allies such as the DMK.

CPI-M leaders refused to go public on the issue. "We are ready for discussions," a senior CPI-M leader who did not want to be identified told IANS.

"Although DMK appears to be fine with a leftist as vice president, other allies like Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) need to be spoken to," the CPI-M leader added.

Communist Party of India leader D. Raja was more forthcoming.

"There has been a preliminary discussion (among UPA allies) and there was a view that since the Congress had the presidential candidate, the vice president should be a non-Congress person.

"We can take the initiative in choosing a candidate based on consensus," Raja told IANS.

Shekhawat, whose five-year term ends in August, is fighting the upcoming presidential election as an independent backed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

The UPA-Left-Bahujan Samaj Party's official candidate is Pratibha Patil.

CPI-M sources indicate that the party does not have any objections against holding the post of vice president, who automatically becomes the chairperson of the Rajya Sabha.

"Anyway, we have a communist speaker in the Lok Sabha. So there is nothing against becoming the presiding officer of the upper house," said a Left leader.

According to sources close to Chatterjee, the speaker would be "ready to accept the responsibilities his party asks him to take up." Chatterjee is a CPI-M MP from West Bengal.