So far, the names of Home Minister Shivraj Patil and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee have been doing the rounds as front-runners for the top post. Other names being mentioned by the political leaders include Human Resources Development Minister Arjun Singh and senior Congress leaders Karan Singh and Motilal Vora.
The NDA has left it to the former Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee who has tried to elicit the opinion of other political leaders on the possibility of consensus. Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat is the choice of the NDA though it has not said so officially. A section of the NDA has not ruled out the possibility of Shekhawat being projected as a non-UPA candidate rather than as an NDA nominee to enable him to get votes of those who do want to be seen as backing a BJP nominee.
Meanwhile, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee has left it to the political parties to take a decision on his candidature. “It is for them (political parties and MPs and MLAs) to decide. This is a matter not depending on one’s own opinion. I have not spoken to anybody. Nobody has spoken to me,” he said in an interview to PTI on completion of three years as Presiding Officer of the Lok Sabha. “I don’t become a candidate just because there is some speculation about my name,” Somnath said, adding that it was “quite a surprise” for him when he became the Speaker.
He said he is “not concerned” over the issue. “I have some friends. I have friends in many parties. But that has nothing to do with the Presidentship of the country.”
The Left has indicated to Congress its preferences, which Pranab. The Congress leaders are examining pros and cons of sparing him for the top post when he plays a crucial role as a senior minister in the government’s decision-making process.