UPA presidential nominee Pranab Mukherjee on Friday said a large number of non-UPA parties have extended support to him and this reflects a broad consensus on his candidature for the top Constitutional post.
"No doubt I have been fielded by UPA, but my candidature has been supported by a large number of parties, who are not in UPA," he told reporters at the Chavan Pratishthan in south Mumbai after addressing a meeting of legislators and MP of the ruling Congress-NCP Democratic Front government in Maharashtra.
Mukherjee said the purpose of his visit to Mumbai was to meet and thank members of the electoral college and also those, who have supported his candidature for the July 19 election.
"Apart from UPA, the JDU, Shiv Sena, CPI(M), Forward Bloc, SP, BSP, RJD, JD(S) and LJP of Paswan and a host of smaller parties like Naga National Front of Nagaland and Bodo Peoples Party have supported my candidature. Many other parties, including some smaller parties from Maharashtra have also supported me," he said.
"Today, I have no identity. I cannot speak on behalf of party or government," he said.
Asked about who would be the next finance minister, he said, "I have no right to recommend the next FM. That prerogative is with the PM."
On being asked about the mercy plea pardon by the President, Mukherjee said, "I cannot give my opinion on the issue as it is a constitutional provision.
"I have come to express my thanks. I am also calling on respective leaders, who have extended their support and have also expressed their desire to meet me.
"I am not forcing myself on anybody."
Asked on his views that the President's post was largely ceremonial and whether he would like to see the Constitution amended to rectify this, he said, "The authority to amend the Constitution is not vested with the President".
"The answer can be given only by political party, not by anyone else," he said.
To a query on who would be the next troubleshooter for UPA government and whether it could be Sharad Pawar, Mukherjee said, "Congress party and UPA have a large number of talented people."
On a lighter note, Pranab thanked the gathered media for their support over the years. "I may have been rude to you... please forget it," he said.
Earlier, addressing the meeting, Mukherjee said, in his five decades of public life, he has received abundant love and affection from his party colleagues and also from those outside.
"Prior to the election of S D Sharma in 1992, in the presidential election, as per composition of electoral college and the value of voting added to each member, clearly demonstrated that a political party has substantial majority in both the Houses of Parliament and in a number of most populous states. The nominee of that party became the presidential candidate and got elected easily," he said.
"But since 1992, the situation changed. After the 1984 LS polls, till today, no single party got a clear majority in the Lok Sabha. Sometimes the single largest party like Congress formed the government. In 1991, there was no need of coalition, the number was such. But nonetheless, for constitutional issues, they had to depend on support of others and more so in the Presidential election," he said.
Sonia Gandhi took the initiative and started talking to UPA partners (on my candidature). In a full-fledged meeting of UPA, when she posed this question, all partners of UPA 2, except one partner, endorsed my name as the Presidential candidate. And Shardji (Sharad Pawar) was the first one to suggest. Thereafter it was followed, he said.
"After that, several parties announced support to my candidature. That speaks a lot for our multi-party democratic system. But it also points out that for election to the highest office, there is a need for a consensus. I can humbly submit that there is a broad consensus (over my candidature), if not unanimity," Mukherjee added.
Because the UPA candidate has been supported not only by the partners of UPA 2, but their outside supporters and also by parties opposed to UPA 2, including JDU, Shiv Dena, CPI(M), Forward Bloc and a host of other state level parties, he said.