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BJP says UPA should not have unilaterally announced presidential candidate

June 15, 2012 - New Delhi

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Friday confirmed that the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, had called Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj to tell her about the United Progressive Alliance's (UPA's) decision to declare Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as the ruling alliance's candidate for the post of president.

Senior BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain told a television channel that Dr. Singh had sought the opposition National Democratic Alliance's (NDA's) consensual support for Mukherjee's candidature.

He said that Swaraj offered her best wishes to Dr. Singh over Mukherjee's selection, but said it would have been better if the UPA had taken constituents of the NDA into confidence about their plans well before unilaterally announcing Mukherjee's name for the post of president.

Hussain said that with the announcement of the UPA candidate, the opposition NDA would now meet again to discuss the latest developments related to the July 19 presidential poll, and take its own considered decision on the issue, including the naming of its own candidate.

Earlier, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, who was authorized by the Congress Working Committee (CWC) to decide on the presidential candidate, announced Mukherjee as the ruling alliance's choice for the coveted post of president.

Gandhi had over the past few days held consultations with senior leaders and allies to zero in on a consensus for the presidential candidate.

And on Friday evening, member parties of the UPA coalition unanimously endorsed Mukherjee as their presidential candidate.

The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, had earlier in the day, met senior Congress colleagues, including Pranab Mukherjee, to discuss the presidential poll issue ahead of the UPA meeting.

Besides Mukherjee, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid and Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal were also present in the meeting.

The Congress Core Group, which met at the residence of the Prime Minister here on Thursday, is believed to have decided to put forward Pranab Mukherjee's name for the coveted post. The latest development comes a day after West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee warned the Centre that she was not in favour of Mukherjee, and indirectly hinted at toppling the government. "We want to be in the UPA. If they don't want us in the government, that choice is with the Congress," she told media here after meeting Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. Banerjee also said Dr. A.P.J. Kalam was her first choice for the president's post. "Our formidable candidate is Kalam. They rejected the name of other candidates. So now Kalam is our candidate. We will be very happy if Kalam contest the elections and he will win the elections," said Banerjee. "Every party should support Kalam. It should have nothing to do with politics. It is good if there is consensus. If there were no consensus, then we would appeal to electorates to vote according to their conscience. I have no information about it," she added, while urging the leaders of various other political outfits to back Kalam's candidature. But on Friday, Mamata stood politically isolated after Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party also endorsed the name of Mukherjee on being firmly told by the Congress that their candidate for president was the finance minister and no one else.

Trinamool Congress, with 19 members in the Lok Sabha, is the largest constituent of UPA after the Congress. On the other hand, the Samajwadi Party, which has 22 members in the Lok Sabha, is an outside supporter of the ruling alliance. President Pratibha Devisingh Patil's term ends on July 24.


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