New Delhi: With less than three months before President Pratibha Patil demits office, a host of possible successors have now surfaced and the political battle is heating up over the issue. There are many names doing the round but UPA allies seem to be getting together to push for an apolitical presidential candidate. And the name that seems to be getting the maximum leverage is that of the former president APJ Abdul Kalam.
The Congress Core Committee is expected to meet later this week to decide on the options. Senior Congress leaders including Sonia Gandhi may speak to allies.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar said he wants a consensus candidate but the next president must be a non-political person. "After looking at the strength of the UPA or NDA, there should be dialogue at high levels and a decision has to be taken. And I am confident that concerned leadership will initiate the process of dialogue. Now, we have to think of an 'agreed' candidate," he said.
His comment assumes significance in the backdrop of TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee meeting the Samajwadi Party leadership recently, with the SP reportedly pushing for Kalam. Though both parties claim no formal decision has been taken yet. SP's Shahid Siddiqui said that his party was open to Kalam as President. CPM's Sitaram Yechury said that the party wants consensus on the issue.
The BJP too would prefer the former president getting a second term but the Congress is batting for Vice President Hamid Ansari and Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar.
The BJP wants the President to be a candidate with a clean record. "I feel that the point of concern is not whether the candidate should be a political person or a non-political person. The important point is that the person appointed to be as the President of India must not have any controversies against him or her and must be able to resolve the constitutional ailments and other dangers threatening the country at present," BJP's National Vice-President Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said.
JD (U) president Sharad Yadav said, "This is a big election. Consultations will happen. We have not yet thought of anything. Let the government come up with a proposal and then we will think. Right now we have not talked about this."
The names of Vice President Hamid Ansari and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee are doing the rounds as nominees for the top post which falls vacant on July 24 when Pratibha Patil's term ends.
A new Vice-President has to be elected by August and a section of the opposition is favouring a 'give and take' approach between the UPA and the NDA.
The Congress has 31 per cent of the total votes against 24 per cent of the BJP in an electoral college that is expected to be of the size of 10,98,882. The UPA has a little over 40 per cent of the total votes as against 57 per cent it had in the last elections. The NDA has less than 30 per cent.