Hectic activity in UPA camp on presidential polls


New Delhi : The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is expected to finalise its candidate for president in the next few days, with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi's arrival here Monday intensifying hectic parleys among allies of the ruling coalition.

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi will hold separate discussions with the leaders of UPA as all the crucial leaders of allies are in town.

"The UPA will hold discussions today and tomorrow (Monday and Tuesday) as its leaders are in the national capital to attend the NDC (National Development Council) meeting," said a Left leader.

The Congress leadership is expected to discuss the presidential elections with DMK chief Karunanidhi, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad to finalise the ruling coalition's candidate.

The process of consultations between the ruling alliance and its outside supporters, the Left and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), on deciding a mutually acceptable candidate for the presidential elections, have moved a step further with Karunanidhi landing in the capital.

Agriculture Minister Pawar and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Prakash Karat called on Karunanidhi early in the day.

Karat, who came to "consult" Karunanidhi on the issue, met the chief minister at New Tamil Nadu House in Chanakyapuri at 11 a.m. and was with the veteran Dravidian leader for over half hour.

Emerging from Karunanidhi's room, Karat said: "Since the chief minister is here for the NDC meeting, I decided to call on him and pay my respect."

Asked if the subject of presidential elections came up during his discussion, the CPI-M leader avoided a direct reply: "We discussed several issues of mutual interest."

He added that he met Karunanidhi during his visit to Chennai a few days ago.

In reply to a question on whether there was any concurrence between him and Karunanidhi on the issue, Karat said: "There is no question of any concurrence. It's a process of consultations and not concurrence… we have to talk to others to reach a common understanding."

Pawar also spent half-an-hour with Karunanidhi. The discussion centred on politics, said sources in the DMK declining to divulge exactly what transpired.

Karunanidhi also called on Sonia Gandhi and is to meet the prime minister at 7.30 p.m. Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh and CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan will meet the chief minister separately, said officials at the New Tamil Nadu House.