Presidential poll: No name finalised, says Congress



New Delhi: Amid indications that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had emerged the front-runner among probable presidential candidates of the Congress, the party Saturday sought to scotch speculations, stating that no name has been finalised.

Janardan Dwivedi, chairman of party's media department, said that discussions with the party's allies were continuing and no names have been finalised.

"At the moment I can say only this much that the process of discussions with our allies and supporting allies is on and no name has so far been finalised," Dwivedi told IANS.

Dwivedi's remarks came on a day Mukherjee signalled his interest in the post but also added that it was for the party to make the final decision.

"The party (Congress) will decide. The party nominates. You cannot become president just because you want to," Mukherjee told media persons outside his residence in Kolkata.

The party's top leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party chief Sonia Gandhi, met in New Delhi Friday amid discussions with allies on finalising the party candidate for the highest post in the country.

After the core group meeting, Gandhi's political secretary Ahmed Patel met Mukherjee in his office for almost an hour.

Gandhi has stepped up consultations with the allies to finalise the party candidate. She met Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh Wednesday and DMK leaders TR Baalu and MK Stalin Thursday. All of them are believed to have supported Mukherjee's candidature.

Congress sources said Nationalist Congress Party and Samajwadi Party were likely to back Mukherjee if he is made the United Progressive Alliance candidate for the presidential poll. They said Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee also would eventually come on board as it would be politically imprudent for her to oppose a fellow Bengali.

They said the party is likely to announce its presidential candidate before the prime minister leaves for G-20 summit June 16.

The name of Vice President Hamid Ansari was also doing the rounds as probable party candidate.

Party sources said that Dwivedi's remarks were aimed at curbing speculations in the media and keeping up suspense about the party's decision.

PTI