The Left parties favour a presidential candidate who has “wider acceptance and emerges through a process of consensus,” according to Communist Party of India National Secretary D. Raja.

“We are of the view that the candidate must have a wider acceptance. And it will be good if the candidate emerges on the basis of consensus,” Mr. Raja told presspersons here on Sunday.

He said the Left parties had held a preliminary meeting to discuss the presidential poll.

The CPI was particular that the candidate should be a political person as the “President's post as custodian of the Constitution is a political one.” But, he added: “To be very frank, nobody can be considered non-political in India.”

The Left parties were yet to zero in on the name of any candidate for offering their support. Indicating that the Congress would have to play a significant role in initiating the process of selection of presidential candidate, he said: “We have to wait and see how the Congress, as the head of the government, is going to initiate the entire process.”

Right to Food campaign

Mr. Raja said the Left parties would launch a nationwide campaign demanding enactment of the Right to Food legislation besides streamlining and universalising the public distribution system.

Details of the campaign would be worked out at the next meeting of the Left parties to be held in the third week of this month.

The campaign would culminate with a national-level programme to be held during Parliament's monsoon session, he said. The need for such a campaign had arisen as the Centre had indicated that it might dismantle the PDS structure itself.

When his comments were sought on the performance of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is close to completing one year in office, Mr. Raja said: “She has to concentrate on governance and focus on delivering what she has promised.”

He pointed out that some of her statements and measures on certain issues such as freedom of speech and rape had become a subject of criticism not only by the Left parties, but also by all sections of society in West Bengal, including intellectuals.

Special package

On her demand for a special package from the Centre for West Bengal, Mr. Raja pointed out that several other States, including Bihar and Tamil Nadu, too were asking for the same. “It is a larger issue relating to the Centre-State relationship and pertaining to economic powers of States. The States are demanding more share from the Centre's tax collections as they lack funds. There is a justification for what the States are asking. The Centre will have to be more accommodative to the concerns of the States,” he said.

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