New Delhi: President-elect Pranab Mukherjee on Monday refused to comment on the clemency plea of 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru till he assumed office and studied the issue.

In interviews to at least two national TV channels a day after he was declared the 13th President of India, Mukherjee said such decisions were supposed to be taken on the advice of the government.

"I cannot make any comment on it (Afzal clemency) because these are the issues, which strictly come within the purview of the President's consideration. And President's action is to be done on the basis of the advice, which he or she gets from the council of ministers," Mukherjee said.

"Therefore, these are the matters on which nobody will hear from me under what circumstances I am taking the decision. Decisions may be of individuals but the process of decision-making should remain strict."

The clemency plea of Guru, convicted for his role in the Dec 13, 2001 parliament attack, is one of the hottest issues awaiting his decision.

It is believed that the Home Minister, in a file noting send to the President's office last year, has recommended that the clemency plea be rejected.

In an interview, Mukherjee said he wouldn't "comment on Afzal Guru until I have assumed office and gone through the issue".

The remarks came after the Shiv Sena, which supported his candidature, demanded that Mukherjee reject Guru's mercy petition."We have many expectations from you. We urge you to reject Afzal Guru's mercy plea and hang him.

Pranabda, you should do this on priority basis and should kick-start your career as President of India. It is an august conduct that we expect from you," Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray said in the latest edition of party mouthpiece Saamna.

Mukherjee appeared in TV interviews a day after he won the presidential poll defeating opposition-backed P.A. Sangma with an overwhelming majority of parliament members and legislators voting for him across the political spectrum.

The President-elect, who has held the key ministerial portfolios of finance, defence and external affairs in an eventful four-decade political career, was backed not just by partners of the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) but also by the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and Shiv Sena, which broke ranks with the opposition alliance. And this is what he said moved him.

"I'm particularly happy that those who committed, particularly those who don't belong to our party, scrupulously adhered to their commitment and voted for me. That doesn't normally happen. I consider this a great reward to my long stay in public life."

Mukherjee, one of India's most experienced and canny politicians, also said animosity between political parties had left him disturbed."The hatred between political parties bothers me," he said.

Mukherjee also refused to comment on his defeated rival Sangma alleging that the Congress promised financial packages to the states that voted for him. "I am not at all upset and I would not like to make any comments on what a contesting candidate said. After all, it is for the electorate (to decide). And the electorates have responded. What is the need for making my comment?"

He also played down the rift in the opposition ranks that swelled his winning margin, particularly in Karnataka where Bharatiya Janata Party legislators are believed to have cross-voted in his favour.

"Sometimes in these type of elections, it happens. I don't know exactly what happened and what were the internal reasons or external reasons if any I don't know. But sometimes it happens."


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