Names of presidential candidates still unclear; discussion fruitful, says Antony
As part of the efforts of the Congress to evolve a consensus among its allies over a presidential candidate, senior party leader and Defence Minister A.K. Antony called on Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president M. Karunanidhi here on Sunday.
Mr. Antony said he had a “fruitful discussion” with the “senior-most leader of the country and a valuable ally of the Congress,” but refused to reveal what transpired at the nearly 90-minute meeting.
“Soniaji [Congress president Sonia Gandhi] asked me to meet Karunanidhiji to discuss the political situation. We had a detailed discussion about the present situation. What was discussed I will tell her,” Mr. Antony told the media after the meeting.
The former Union Minister, T.R. Baalu, and DMK MP Kanimozhi were present when the meeting took place at Mr. Karunanidhi’s CIT Colony residence. The DMK has 18 Lok Sabha MPs, seven Rajya Sabha MPs and 23 MLAs.
Later, DMK organising secretary T.K.S. Elangovan said it was a one-on-one meeting and no details were available about candidates whose names were under consideration.
DMK sources, however, said the Congress-led UPA, which did not have adequate strength to ensure its candidate’s victory on its own, was under compulsion to keep in good humour not only its allies, but also political parties such as the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
“A Muslim candidate can be acceptable to both the SP and the BSP, and the Congress can think about fielding Vice-President Hamid Ansari,” a senior DMK leader said. However, the fact that it was Mr. Antony who called on Mr. Karunanidhi, instead of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who has in the past come to discuss major issues with the DMK leader, sparked speculation that Mr. Mukherjee himself could be a candidate under consideration.
After the last presidential election, Mr. Karunanidhi claimed he had paved the way for the election of a woman as President for the first time. The DMK even organised a rally in Chennai to felicitate Pratibha Patil soon after her candidature was announced.
When A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was fielded as a candidate by the BJP government, the DMK was part of the alliance. At that time, DMK’s arch rival, the AIADMK, also supported Mr. Kalam. In 2007, the scientist’s name was proposed by some parties, but he did not join the fray, citing the lack of consensus on his candidature.
Let’s wait: Kalam
With speculation about his name being proposed again, Mr. Kalam has not revealed his mind yet. It is not clear if Mr. Kalam, who hails from Tamil Nadu and commands great respect here, will get the support of the parties in the State. Asked by reporters in New Delhi if he was willing to consider a second term, Mr. Kalam merely said: “Let us wait for some time. After some time, you ask me.”