New Delhi: Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee`s cryptic comment about Rashtrapati Bhavan`s extensive lawns and how he loves to walk has renewed speculation about the veteran leader`s interest in becoming India`s next president.
"I love to walk in the morning... I take 40 rounds of my lawns... the Rashtrapati Bhavan has large lawns... one would not need 40 rounds," Mukherjee told a newspaper in an interview when asked about the possibility of his contesting the presidential election.
President Pratibha Patil`s five-year term ends in July and the question of who will succeed her is wide open.
Mukherjee, 77, also said "the presidential poll is some time away and there is a lot to be done before that".
Responding to talk of his indispensability, the minister told the newspaper: "Nobody is indispensable in life or politics. India survived after Nehru, Mrs Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi."
If Mukherjee is nominated for the top post by the Congress, the party`s job of building consensus around its chief troubleshooter would be relatively easier, given the respect he commands across political parties.
But as many have pointed out, being talented is an attribute that could also go against the veteran MP as the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) leadership would think twice before deciding to elevate him as India`s first citizen.
Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi declined to comment on Mukherjee`s candidature.
"The process of consulting the UPA allies and parties supporting us from outside is on. An announcement regarding a consensus candidate for the presidential post would be made at an appropriate time," Alvi told agencies.
Though Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former finance minister Yashwant Sinha was lavish in his praise of Mukherjee during the debate on the Budget 2012-13 in the Lok Sabha, the party later said it will react only after the Congress has named its candidate for the presidential poll.
UPA ally Trinamool Congress president and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is noncommittal on Mukherjee`s candidature and has instead said she would prefer Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, former president APJ Abdul Kalam or former West Bengal governor Gopal Gandhi for the top post.