Kolkata, June 23 (IANS) Noting that his four-decade-long involvement in party politics was coming to an end, UPA presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee Saturday announced he would quit as finance minister June 26. He also sought to reach out to the Trinamool Congress, appealing for all undecided parties to support his candidature.
In an obvious reference to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) constituent Trinamool Congress, Mukherjee said that except one, all parties which are partners in the central government have supported him.
"Except one, all parties which are partners of the government, are supporting me. Those giving outside support to the government like the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, have also supported me," he said outside his South Kolkata residence.
Noting that parties not associated with the UPA, like the Communist Party of India-Marxist, the All India Forward Bloc, the Janata Dal-United and the Shiv Sena, also have backed him, Mukherjee reiterated his appeal to all undecided parties to extend their support to him for the top job.
"Those who are yet to take a decision, I request them to support the UPA nominee," said Mukherjee.
The Trinamool, second largest constituent of the UPA, is yet to announce its stand on the presidential choice after its preferred candidate, former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, declined to contest. However, Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee has so far been firmly opposing Mukherjee's bid for the country's presidency.
Earlier, speaking to reporters at his ancestral village Mirati in Birbhum district, Mukherjee said he would quit his central government and the Congress party posts.
"I have been in politics for a long time. After becoming a presidential election candidate, I won't have any party, I will not be in politics. This is a constitutional tradition," he said.
"I will relieve myself of the post of finance minister on June 26. I could not take such a decision earlier because the prime minister (Manmohan Singh) was out of the country. I have to perform some duties in the prime minister's absence," said the veteran politician, considered the number two in the UPA government and its chief trouble shooter.
Mukherjee would return to Delhi Sunday evening.
"Then I will put in my papers. I am still a Congressman and a member of its highest policy making body - the Working Committee. I will send my resignation from this post also to the Congress president (Sonia Gandhi). I shall then start my campaign."
"A big chapter in my four-decade old involvement in party politics has ended," said the 76-year-old leader.
Mukherjee is pitted against former Lok Sabha speaker Purno A. Sangma, who has the backing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and some constituents of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), as also the AIADMK and the Biju Janata Dal.