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Talks under way on Presidential election

Thursday 10 May 2007

Special Correspondent

Prime Minister holding informal consultations with leaders of the UPA and Left parties

The candidate should have "impeccable secular credentials": CPI (M) Much would depend on the political scenario after the UP election results

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has initiated the process of informal consultations with the leaders of the ruling United Progressive Alliance at the Centre and the Left parties on the candidate for the next Presidential election.

Asked whether the party was approached, Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP and Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury told a press conference here: "The Prime Minister is meeting all leaders of the UPA and the Left."

About the party stand, Mr. Yechury said the CPI (M) would begin applying its mind to the issue after the results of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections are out this Friday. Because UP would influence the character of the Presidential electoral college.

Asked whether the CPI (M) favours a consensus candidate, Mr. Yechury said that ideally it should be so and especially in the current state of polity the person should have "impeccable secular credentials".

The Prime Minister held talks recently with CPI (M) general secretary Prakash Karat and CPI leader A. B. Bardhan separately on the issue.

Sources in the Left parties said both leaders made it clear that President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam should not get a second term and that the post should not be occupied by a non-political person. And the Left parties would not agree to elevation of Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

During the talks, one Left leader sought to ascertain the possible candidates being considered by the Congress camp. Among those whose names were said to be doing the rounds are External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. The name of former Union Minister Karan Singh had also been in circulation, the sources said.

As per calculations in the UPA camp, much would depend on the stand the Bahujan Samaj Party led by Mayawati would take.

The current strength of the UPA, including the Left parties and the BSP, gives the ruling coalition a clear majority. However, if the BSP and the BJP join hands in UP after May 11, the scenario would change, said sources in the UPA.

A Left leader said the UPA, its allies and the Left parties would get an opportunity to ascertain each other’s views when the top leaders assemble in Chennai on Friday for a function to felicitate Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi on his 50 years in Legislature.

See online : The Hindu

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