Even as the Left parties reiterated their opposition to Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil’s candidature for President, their likely choice of candidate, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday dismissed as "speculation" that he is in the race for the top executive post.
This is the second time that Mukherjee has issued a statement dismissing his candidature as "speculation and tendentious". He said UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi would announce the name of the Congress candidate after consultations with allies and supporting parties and expressed confidence that her decision will have full support by "all our allies and partners."
Recalling his earlier statement of May 18, the senior Congress leader said that he had clarified his position then. "There is no room for any further speculation in this matter," he added.
In private, the Left is still hoping that finally it would be External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who would get the nod from the Congress. According to the Left, Mukherjee is the only leader with stature to defeat a political heavyweight like Shekhawat.
Left party leaders, meanwhile, attempted to reach out to UPA allies to build an opinion against Patil’s candidature. Their Wednesday meeting with Tamil Nadu CM M Karunanidhi, who is likely to play an important role in bringing an agreement between the Congress and the Left on the candidate, however, had to be postponed for a day since he arrived late this evening. The Left parties would be meeting the DMK chief on Thursday.
CPI general secretary AB Bardhan and national secretary D Raja met RJD and NCP chiefs Lalu Prasad and Sharad Pawar on Wednesday. "Both leaders expressed hope that if the UPA, its allies, BSP and the Left remain together, Vice-President, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, could be defeated. But we raised the question, who is the candidate," Raja said.
On Patil, a senior Left leader said that their opinion about the Home Minister had been conveyed to the Congress even though a formal announcement of his candidature was yet to be made. "We have conveyed our opinion to Sonia Gandhi. He (Patil) is not a suitable candidate," the leader said.
He added that if the Congress continued to be adamant about Patil, matters would only get complicated for them. "It (Patil’s candidature) is Congress’s problem. We have already made out stand clear on the issue and would go by the criterion," the leader said, adding that the Left would meet Congress if only they call the Left.