Consultations within the ruling UPA on picking the country’s next President entered a decisive phase on Sunday, with senior Congress leader and defence minister AK Antony meeting DMK chief M Karunanidhi in Chennai.
Though both the leaders refused to divulge details of the meeting, DMK sources indicated that the party may not be averse to elevating vice-president Hamid Ansari to the country’s top post. Ansari could even be the party’s first choice for the President’s post, they added.
A senior DMK leader, however, said, “We have no specific candidate in mind, even if the candidate is from Tamil Nadu” — in an apparent reference to former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’s name being floated by some opposition parties.
Antony’s visit surprised political observers, considering that finance minister Pranab Mukherjee is usually assigned such tasks by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. However, Antony described his meeting with Karunanidhi as “fruitful”.
“It was a very, very fruitful meeting. I will report to the Congress president whatever he (Karunanidhi) said,” Antony said. Karunanidhi is one of the most senior leaders in the country and “we always value his advice”, he added.
DMK parliamentary party leader TR Baalu and Karunanidhi’s daughter and party MP Kanimozhi were also present at the meeting.
In his official statement, DMK spokesperson TKS Elangovan maintained that “they discussed the forthcoming presidential elections and other political matters. The discussion was not on the issue of candidate”.
Antony’s meeting with Karunanidhi came close on the heels of agriculture minister and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar holding consultations with the Congress president. Pawar is understood to have impressed upon her the need for a consensus on the choice for the top post.
A meeting between Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and Gandhi is also expected soon. Later, she and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh may meet SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and BSP supremo Mayawati.