The debate over Presidential candidate picked up further momentum with RJD chief Lalu Prasad pitching for Vice President Hamid Ansari while other parties kept the cards close to their chest.

In an interesting development, Gopalakrishna Gandhi met Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in Bhubhaneswar, fuelling speculation that the visit was linked to Presidential polls.

However, SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and BSP chief Mayawati declined to reveal their party strategy on the Presidential elections.

Mr. Ansari got support from Mr. Prasad who said his party would support the Vice President as the Presidential candidate.

“Our Vice President Hamid Ansari should be made the President. He is a good candidate for the President’s post. He should be upgraded as the President,” Mr. Prasad told reporters.

Asked about his party’s stand on former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, he said, “Kalam has already been the President. Now Ansari should be made because he is an able person and his performance is also best in the Rajya Sabha.”

Presidential elections will be held in July and the UPA has to depend on other parties as it does not have required numbers to elect a President on its own strength.

Mr. Mulayam said his party has not yet decided on any name for the Presidential candidate, distancing himself from the comments made by party colleague Shahid Siddiqui who had favoured A.P.J. Abdul Kalam but made a U-turn. “The party has not taken any decision on this,” Mr. Yadav said.

When pointed out that his party colleague Shahid Siddiqui had favoured Mr. Kalam, Mr. Yadav dismissed it, saying “it may be his personal view but the party has not decided yet.”

Ms. Mayawati said, “It is too early to comment on it. Let the name of candidate be declared first and then only we will make our stand known.”

BJP leader Rajnath Singh said, “We do not want to comment on any individual. But our view is that there should be a consensus among all political parties on the candidature of the President.”

JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav also refused to comment on any name for the Presidential candidate, saying, “let’s first hold talks on the issue.”

After Mr. Gandhi’s meeting with Mr. Patnaik, speculation was rife that he met the Chief Minister to seek support for his candidature.

The Chief Minister’s Office here described the three-hour, one-to-one luncheon meeting as a “courtesy” visit.

Mr. Gandhi’s visit was significant as it came a day after media reports on certain non-UPA and non-NDA parties planning to support Mr. Kalam for the Presidential polls.

Mr. Ansari, who could also contest the presidential polls, had also met the chief minister here recently.

Mr. Patnaik is yet to make his stand known about whom his party would support for the post of the President and Vice-President.

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