Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Friday dismissed as speculation the reports that he has emerged as a frontrunner in the race for presidential election.
"It is speculative. I don't want to comment on it," he told reporters on way to Manila where he will be attending the 45th Annual Meeting of Asian Development Bank's Board of Governors.
The foot-in-the-mouth disease struck the Congress on Thursday, when the party was seeking to build consensus on the next presidential candidate for which finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and vice-president Hamid Ansari were reportedly leading the race.
It began with Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury virtually ruling out Mukherjee from the race. "It will never be easy to leave Pranabda. He is such a valuable person for us in the party. His contribution to the party cannot be even measured. For him it will not seem to be fair...but he has such an active political mind. He is too involved and knows politics so well," she said.
The remarks not only created flutter in Congress circles but also prompted Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee to assert that Mukherjee is not the presidential candidate of her alliance partner. "I think their party has already announced that he is not the candidate," she said.
Banerjee's comments forced the Congress managers to go into a damage control mode and Chowdhury was asked to immediately clarify her statement. A senior Congress functionary described Chowdhury's remarks as "most irresponsible" and maintained that "in a party there can be no personal views".
Chowdhury then said her remarks were completely misunderstood and the decision about the presidential candidate was not taken at her level.
Party managers had to step in once again. The spokespersons were conveyed that there could be no individual views on such sensitive issue.
(With HT, agency inputs)