Congress rejects Sangma appeal for debate with Mukherjee (Second Lead)

June 22nd, 2012 - 10:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Pranab Mukherjee New Delhi, June 22 (IANS) The Congress Friday rejected presidential nominee P.A. Sangma’s demand for a debate with United Progressive Alliance (UPA) candidate Pranab Mukherjee even as Team Anna sought a probe into allegations against the finance minister.

Party spokesperson Manish Tewari said the president was not supposed to be managing the economy of the country. He also hoped that parties not supporting Mukherjee will revisit their position.

“(Election to the office of) president of India is not contested to run the economy. Therefore, the suggestion for the debate is non-sequitur and non-starter,” Tewari told reporters.

Sangma alleged earlier he wanted to debate with Mukherjee as the Indian economy was in a bad shape. “Democracy means debate… I am asking for debate.”

He also expressed confidence he would get the support of Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee.

“I am constantly in touch with her (Mamata). I am going to meet her in the next couple of days. I am very much hopeful of her support,” he said.

Banerjee is yet to clarify her stand on the presidential election after former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, whom she proposed, declined to join the fray.

With numbers evidently favouring Mukherjee, Sangma is pinning hopes on conscience vote.

“The election is governed by article 55 (of the constituion) and it clearly says that the election should be by a secret ballot. The question of numbers does not arise at all at this stage,” he said.

Sangma said there was a split in almost all political parties and it was a proof that the election was being taken seriously.

Describing Mukherjee as a “great friend” and his “guru” (teacher) for whom he has a “lot of respect”, Sangma, however, said the veteran Congress leader could not pay much attention to West Bengal.

Sangma said he would reach out to all Congress chief ministers, MPs and legislators from the northeast. “It is a question of northeast’s pride and not a question of party affiliations.”

Sangma said his victory would be a “big message” to “more than 100 million tribals” in the country and suggested that it could help redress Maoist and insurgency issues.

Going by figures, Mukherjee commands 56.17 percent of votes of the electoral college while Sangma has 31.7 percent.

The Bharatiya Janata Party Thursday announced its support to Sangma but its two major allies, the Shiv Sena and Janata Dal-United, said they will vote for Mukherjee.

Team Anna Friday reiterated its demand for an investigation into alleged corruption charges against Mukherjee, saying a person facing so many serious charges would bring disrepute to the top post.

In a five-page letter to Mukherjee, Team Anna said a person aspiring to be the president of India should be above board.

“You would agree that a person facing so many serious charges would bring disrepute to the position of president if he were not absolved of all these charges before being appointed on that post.

“Therefore, we demand independent investigations into all these charges before you are considered for this position,” said the letter signed by seven Team Anna members.

The letter comes after Mukherjee slammed Team Anna for the “unfair” and “motivated”.

He had termed the allegations “false, self-seeking, malafide and made with ulterior motive and lacking any form of responsibility”.

Meanwhile, the Congress slammed the BJP for not supporting Mukherjee, saying the main opposition party had not reciprocated the gesture shown by the Congress in 2002 when it backed Kalam, the BJP nominee.

“Opposing for the sake of opposition is the basic mantra of the BJP,” spokesman Tewari said.

Hoping for “widest possible support across the spectrum” for Mukherjee, he dismissed suggestions that BJP had not been properly approached for its support.

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