Hectic UPA parleys on president, DMK prefers ‘winnable’ Shinde


New Delhi : The search for India's next president intensified Monday among partners of the ruling United Progressive Alliance with Tamil Nadu's ruling DMK signalling its support for Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde.

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The UPA is expected to finalise its candidate in the next few days, after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi hold separate discussions with the leaders of UPA allies.

All key UPA political figures are in town, their ranks swelled by the arrival Monday of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi of the DMK party, and they met among themselves to exchange views.

The first off the mark with a name was the DMK, with a close Karunanidhi confidante saying: "If we have a choice, it would be Shinde. He is a Dalit, knows Delhi. He is from Maharashtra. So he may also manage Shiv Sena votes, which will put UPA in a far more advantageous position vis-à-vis the opposition."

Also in the running for the job are External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, former Uttar Pradesh governor Moti Lal Vora and former cabinet minister Narayan Dutt Tiwari.

"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 Karunanidhi, who is also DMK chief, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad to finalise the ruling coalition's candidate.

The Left, without naming anyone, has made it clear any candidate for the post should be political, a firm believer in secularism and able to handle the delicate issue of relations between the legislature, judiciary and executive.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, whose Bahujan Samaj Party holds the key to the choice of the next president, has already held talks with the prime minister and Sonia Gandhi and indicated she will support the UPA candidate.

On a day of political parleys, Agriculture Minister Pawar and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Prakash Karat called on Karunanidhi early on.

Karat was with the veteran Dravidian leader for over half hour, and Karunanidhi later said he fully agrees with the Left perspective. "I fully agree with these three qualifications spelled out by the CPI-M," he said, but he added that "winnability" is also important.

"I will return to Delhi in the first week of June and only then we will finalise the candidate," he added.