Finally and officially named the United Progressive Alliance's candidate for President, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Friday thanked Congress president Sonia Gandhi for bestowing on him the honour.

Speaking to journalists at his North Block office here after his nomination, Mr. Mukherjee said: “I am deeply honoured on my nomination as the candidate for the election to the office of President of India by my party and the UPA-II. I am grateful to Congress president Sonia Gandhi for this recognition. I accept this offer with all humility.”

In a “thank you” note of sorts to the entire political spectrum while seeking all-party support for a consensus entry into Rashtrapati Bhavan, Mr. Mukherjee said: “In my long political career spanning over five decades, I have been fortunate to receive love, affection and confidence of my party colleagues and also the members and leaders of all political parties. I am deeply indebted to them. I will now again seek their indulgence and support for the next few weeks…We have requested all political parties to lend their support.”

As to who was likely to succeed him at North Block in this hour of economic crisis, he said there were a number of able hands for the Finance Minister's job and it would be up to Ms. Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take a decision. “It is up to the Prime Minister to decide who will be the next Finance Minister ... the Congress president and the Prime Minister will decide,” he said while subtly hinting that the Prime Minister may decide to keep the portfolio with himself for some time.

“I do not think I am depository of all knowledge and expertise. In our government and in our party there are a number of people who can handle difficult economic situations. The Prime Minister himself is an eminent economist and under his stewardship we will overcome this temporary crisis,” he said.

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