New Delhi: The Congress cannot spare Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the party said on Thursday, ruling out his candidature as President. The Congress also rejected former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and former speaker Somnath Chatterjee proposed by the Trinamool Congress and the Samajwadi Party (SP) for the high post.

 

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"During United Progressive Alliance (UPA) second (term) it was decided that Manmohan Singh will stay Prime Minister till 2014. We cannot afford to spare Dr. Manmohan Singh. He is our prime ministerial candidate and this is our commitment to the people of the country," Congress leader Janardhan Dwivedi told reporters.  

It was the first comment of the party since Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav on Wednesday listed Manmohan Singh as one of their preferred choices for the President's post.

"I want to keep it straight... Congress president as United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson started talks with all allies and supporters. During the first round of talks, two names came up and they were of Pranab Mukherjee and Hamid Ansari," Dwivedi said."When Mamata met her (Gandhi), the Congress chief told her that these two names have come up for presidential elections. When two names have come up, this does not mean that Congress has decided on one name," he said.

Dwivedi said that such talks happen indoors and should not be talked in public.  "None of other allies have spoken about names in public. Had the Congress decided the name, then there would have been one name not two..."Reacting to names of Kalam and Chatterjee as possible presidential candidates, Dwivedi said: "These are not acceptable to us."

PREZ CANDIDATE NAME AFTER CORE COMMITTEE MEET

The Congress is expected to come out with the name of the UPA candidate either on Thursday or Friday after the Congress Core Group meet on Thursday evening.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi held discussions with senior party leaders including Mukherjee after which the party announced the rejection of the three names proposed by TMC and SP.

TMC, SP PROPOSE THREE NAMES

The Presidential race took a dramatic twist with the Congress declaring Pranab Mukherjee as their preferred choice but two key allies, TMC and SP, came out with a surprise response by suggesting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's name.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi informed TMC leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee that her party's first choice for Rashtrapati Bhawan was the Union Finance Minister.  When Mamata pressed for a second Congress choice Gandhi mentioned Vice President Hamid Ansari's name.

A bigger surprise came immediately thereafter when Mamata and SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav disclosed the names of Singh, former President A P J Abdul Kalam and former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee as their preferred candidates.  Anyone of them would be acceptable to them if there was a consensus.

DRAMATIC TWIST

This dramatic turn of events left the Presidential race wide open and put the Congress in a dilemma.  The party needs the support of both TMC and SP to ensure that its candidate wins.

Other allies such as DMK, NCP, RLD and NC, have already indicated their support for Pranab Mukherjee. By proposing the Prime Minister's name, Mamata and Mulayam may have caused embarrassment to the Congress and by implication to him also as some political observers interpret this move as a loss of confidence in him.

These sudden twists and turns created a flutter among political parties which were trying to make out what the implications are for the Presidential poll and beyond on the political alignments.

 

JPN/Agencies

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