Party decides my role: Pranab

Special Correspondent

Left leaders begin consultations with other parties

Lalu Prasad, Sharad Pawar with the UPA on Presidential candidateLeft not excited about the prospect of Shivraj Patil being the candidate

NEW DELHI: As consultations on the Presidential election intensified, External Affairs Minster Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday reiterated that the Congress leadership decides his role in the party and the Government and "there is no room for any further speculation in this matter."

"The UPA chairperson will announce the name of the Congress candidate for the Presidential election after completing the process of consultations with the UPA allies and supporting parties. I am confident that the party's decision will have the full support of all our allies and partners," he said in a statement.

Second clarification

This is the second time Mr. Mukherjee is issuing a statement to the effect that his role was determined by the party leadership. The first clarification was on May 18, soon after reports that the Left parties were willing to endorse his candidature for the President's post.

The Left leaders have started consultations with leaders of other parties. The Communist Party of India leaders A.B. Bardhan and D. Raja had a round of meeting with the Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad and the Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar separately.

Both these leaders conveyed to the Left leaders that they were with the UPA and no names had yet been communicated to their parties by the Congress. Both Mr. Prasad and Mr. Pawar expressed confidence that the UPA candidate, supported by the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Left parties, would be able to defeat the challenge posed by Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat spoke to the Telugu Desam Party president N. Chandrababu Naidu. The newly-formed Third Front, which includes the TDP, is scheduled to meet on June 18 on the Presidential election. The TDP and the Samajwadi Party face a dilemma, as they do not want to been seen backing a candidate of the Congress or being supported by the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The Left leaders made it clear that they would reach out to other parties in the UPA and others.

The Left parties are not excited about the prospect of Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil being the candidate.

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