Key allies want Indian PM as next president
NEW DELHI, June 13: Two key allies of India’s troubled ruling coalition made a veiled bid on Wednesday to evict Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from his job and “promote” him as the country’s next president.
An electoral college comprising members of parliament and state legislatures is scheduled to elect a new president on July 19. If the move to eject Dr Singh finds an echo in the higher echelons of the ruling Congress party, it would, among other effects, put paid to any thoughts of a Singh visit to Pakistan.
In what has been termed a political googly, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav proposed the names of Dr Singh and two other leaders as their candidate in what is emerging as a fractious race for the constitutional head’s office. There was no word from the Congress on the allies’ proposal but influential business lobbies have been losing patience with the prime minister.
What should worry the ruling Congress even more is the fact that Mr Yadav and Ms Banerjee have both won emphatic victories in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal state polls, respectively. They are not believed to be averse to midterm polls which they feel would boost their influence in the next Lok Sabha. They offered to consider former speaker Somnath Chatterjee and former
president A. P. J. Abdul Kalam as acceptable candidates.
While Messrs Kalam and Chatterjee were anticipated as choices, suggesting Dr Singh’s name was seen as a direct challenge to the Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Ms Banerjee who met Ms Gandhi earlier in the day told reporters something that was hitherto in the realm of speculation. According to Ms Banerjee, the Congress leadership wants either Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee or Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari to get the presidential job.
Wednesday’s announcement by Congress allies about their candidate for president came a day after senior opposition leader, Mr Jaswant Singh, met both. Mr Singh, a former minister in the Vajpayee cabinet is a Bharatiya Janata Party MP from West Bengal.