New Delhi: The Congress on Monday bid a warm farewell to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, poised to become the country's President, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying that the veteran leader will be missed.

At a special meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), party chief Sonia Gandhi personally bid farewell to the chief troubleshooter of the party and the UPA and expressed confidence that he would win the July 19 Presidential election with a huge margin.

Mukherjee will file nomination for the Presidential poll on June 28, AICC General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi told reporters after the CWC meeting.

He is expected to resign from the government and the party on Tuesday.

Gandhi hailed Mukherjee as the senior-most member of the CWC and said it was a matter of great pleasure that the UPA has made him a Presidential candidate.

Singh said Mukherjee's absence will be felt as he discharged many duties in the government.

The informal CWC meeting called to felicitate Mukherjee was attended by 20 of the 26 members, including Permanent Invitees.

Among those who spoke on the ocassion were Defence Minister A K Antony, and senior party leaders Motilal Vora, S C Jamir, R K Dhawan, Mohsina Kidwai.

A visibly emotional Mukherjee, who had held a number of posts in the party and the government, said he has got much more from the party than what he had given.

He said he always considered himself as a true Congressman and did whatever is good for the party.

Mukherjee recalled his long association with the CWC and said he met the Prime Minister as part of his farewell meetings. He thanked the party for all the cooperation and for nominating him for the President's post.

Mukherjee became a member of the CWC in 1978 and has been a key player in the top decision making body of the party.

Sweets, including popular Bengal delicacy 'sandesh', were distributed at the meeting as Congress leaders wished the 76-year-old leader a good innings ahead.

Known for his razor sharp intellect, Mukherjee, a quintessential Congressman, is variously described as a walking encyclopedia, chronicler of Congress history, expert in matters of Constitution and governance and a stickler for rules in the Parliament.

Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh was not present at the CWC meeting. Karan Singh, who was one of the aspirants for the Presidential post, was also not present.

Asked about his absence, Digvijay Singh said he was in Madhya Pradesh to attend a private function and had accordingly informed the party leadership.

On Digvijay's absence, Dwivedi said he was among the six leaders who could not attend the meeting.

Digvijay Singh had courted controversy by dubbing Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee as "immature" and "erratic" over her opposition to Mukherjee's candidature drawing instant disapproval from the party.

Mukherjee is expected to launch his campaign for the Presidential polls from Chennai on June 30 and then likely to visit Hyderabad and Bangalore the next day.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal is coordinating Mukherjee's poll campaign, including the process of filing of nomination. An informal coordination committee has also been set up.

(Agencies)

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