With reports suggesting that he is one of the candidates for the presidential post, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today parried questions on whether he is in the race for it.
“Oh my goodness...oh my goodness..,” a smiling Mukherjee told reporters outside Parliament House when asked about him being projected as consensus choice for President’s post.
“Don’t indulge in any speculation,” he said when pressed again to get his version amid reports that his name was discussed during Defence Minister A. K. Antony’s meeting with DMK Chief M.Karunanidhi in Chennai yesterday as part of efforts to have a consensus candidate among UPA allies.
Mr. Antony refused to divulge the details of his meeting with Mr. Karunanidhi saying whatever the DMK chief has said would only be conveyed to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Congress insisted that the formal process to choose the next President is yet to take off.
Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said that the extremely august office of the President of India should not be brought into the realm of unnecessary speculation.
“The President of India is an extremely august office. This is not an office which should be brought into the realm of unnecessary speculation. While it is true that the term of the current President will be ending in July, it is also a fact that formally the process to choose the next President has not kicked off,” he told reporters outside Parliament.
President Pratibha Patil’s term is going to end in July this year.
Agatha pitches for Sangma
Meanwhile, NCP member and Union Minister Agatha Sangma suggested that Mr. Mukherjee should remain in Finance Ministry and pitched for her father and senior leader P.A. Sangma saying a tribal and a Christian have never been President.
“Sangma, not as my father...but according to me he is an able Parliamentarian. Whatever role he has been given, he has played it very well. So according to me, he is very able person and politician.
The community he represents has never been represented as President-be it a tribal or Christian communities,” Agatha Sangma, who is the Minister of State for Rural Development, told reporters outside Parliament House.
Referring to the “identity issues” of tribals and their support to the Naxal movement in some parts of the country, she said, “representing tribals is very very important.”
On Pranab Mukherjee becoming a consensus choice for Presidential candidate, she said at present he has a very important role and “to get a Finance Minister of his kind is very difficult”.