A Dalit woman should be the President, says CPI leader A.B. Bardhan

Ahead of the NDA meeting to discuss the latest developments on the Presidential election, the Bharatiya Janata Party described the former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam as a “respected leader.” Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav have named Mr. Kalam their choice for President.

Separately, veteran Communist Party of India leader A.B. Bardhan said, quoting Mahatma Gandhi, that a Dalit woman should be the President, but refrained from naming any one. Mr. Bardhan was answering a question at a news conference.

BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain, answering a question whether the name of the former President was acceptable to the NDA, merely said that he was a respected leader and the country took pride in him. However, he added that the BJP would discuss the issue only after the Congress named its candidate.

Working Chairman of the NDA and former Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani told journalists in Chennai, after a meeting with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa, that the NDA was expected to firm up its strategy only after the Congress announced its candidate.

On the two preferences of the Congress — Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Vice-President Hamid Ansari — conveyed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi to Ms. Banerjee on Wednesday, the BJP spokesperson expressed disappointment with Mr. Mukherjee on the ground that the Finance Minister had failed to take concrete measures to check prices.

“Today, he did not say anything about effective steps being taken to curb price rise. He only said prices have gone up marginally, as if that is an achievement,” Mr. Hussain said and wanted to know why oil prices had not come down when at the international level the cost of crude had fallen to $82.84 per gallon.

Mr. Bardhan, who had an informal interaction with the CPI(Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat earlier in the day, said neither the Congress nor the UPA had spoken with the Left parties or come out with any name for the Presidential elections. The Left parties would meet on June 21 to discuss the developments on the Presidential poll.

“Mahatma Gandhi has said one good thing...among many other good things that a Dalit woman should be made President,” Mr. Bardhan said.

However, in response to a pointed question, he said that he did not mean Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar. “Sorry. I am not taking any names,” he said.

Asked whether the Left parties would support Mr. Mukherjee if the UPA chose him as its candidate, he said, “I cannot answer your questions which are full of ifs.”

Mr. Bardhan said only four leaders — NCP chief Sharad Pawar, BJD head Naveen Patnaik, AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa and TDP president Chandrababu Naidu — had spoken to him. Barring the four leaders none, including Mr. Mukherjee, had spoken to him on the matter, he said.

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