President race: Mamata hedges on Pranab, backs Meira (Second lead)

May 21st, 2012 - 11:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Mamata Banerjee New Delhi, May 21 (IANS) Ruling UPA’s alliance partner, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee Monday said she would “be happy” with Meira Kumar, Gopal Gandhi or A.P.J. Abdul Kalam as president but not Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. The Congress said they would hold consultations with all concerned parties on the issue.

Refusing to back Mukherjee, the West Bengal chief minister said: “I’ll be very happy to see Meira Kumar or Gopal Gandhi or even A.P.J. Kalam. These three names are better. I think so.”

“Is he (Mukherjee) the son of Bengal? He may be the son of world… I don’t think so, but it is his choice. I don’t know,” she replied when asked by CNN-IBN in an interview about her stand on backing Mukherjee for the coveted post.

“No, I didn’t say but if the country allows him, who am I to oppose it,” she said.

“It depends on the majority, it’s a democratic country. He is finance minister… It’s Congress party’s decision who will be the candidate we cannot say… I cannot interfere in Congress party’s business it’s not my prerogative,” she said.

“But if you ask my party’s choice or the personal choice then I’ll say I love Meira Kumar. She is a soft-spoken lady and from the Scheduled Caste background also,” she said, referring to the Lok Sabha speaker.

“Even I love Gopal Gandhi (former governor of West Bengal) he is a very good man also. He is a man of integrity, and if you ask me A.P.J. (Abdul) Kalam he was a very good president also. He was an all party choice.”

Though the Congress is yet to announce its preference for the top post, there is a section in the party that feels Mukherjee, widely seen as the chief troubleshooter of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), would be better off serving the government.

There is no consensus yet among key political parties on who should succeed Pratibha Patil as the next occupant of the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The Congress chose to stay away from Banerjee’s remark.

“I have not heard or seen the statement,” Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi told reporters.

Alvi said Congress will hold consultations with all concerned on the issue of next president.

Meanwhile, the BJP leadership Monday discussed former Speaker and Nationalist Congress Party leader P.A. Sangma’s candidature for the post of the president.

The party will take a final decision soon.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa and her Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik have backed Sangma’s candidature.

Sangma, who met Communist Party of India leader D. Raja to seek his support, said he may contest as an independent candidate if his party does not back him.

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