Congress: Manmohan to stay PM; no to Kalam

NEW DELHI: The All India Congress Committee on Thursday emphasised that Dr Manmohan Singh will remain the prime minister of the nation till the elections in 2014, and said that the names of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Vice President Hamid Ansari as presidential candidates are still being discussed.

Congress spokesperson Janardhan Dwivedi said: "There is no question of the PM being elevated to any other post." The party said that it cannot afford to spare Manmohan Singh as prime minister for the post of President.

The Congress's response came almost 15 hours after Mamata Banerjee and Mulayam Singh Yadav embarrassed the Congress by proposing the name of Manmohan Singh -- apart from those of former President APJ Abdul Kalam and former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee -- for the post of the new President.

That was the first official reaction of the Congress after the TMC and the SP snubbed its candidatures.
"Sonia Gandhi told Mamata Banerjee that the two names had emerged from the discussions with allies. It does not mean they are our candidates yet," said Dwivedi.

Dwivedi also added that APJ Kalam and Somnath Chatterjee were not acceptable to the Congress as presidential candidates.

Meanwhile, sources said that the Congress is upset with Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for having 'breached the sanctity of closed-door talks' by revealing the names of the Congress's candidates for presidentship on Wednesday.

The split between the Congress and Mamata is now wide open, sources said, and also raised doubts whether Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav will go along with Mamata any further on this issue.

Meanwhile, presidential hopeful and co-founder of Nationalist Congress Party P A Sangma has decided not to contest the election scheduled for July 19, according to an India Today report.

Sangma, a former Lok Sabha Speaker, instead offered his support for APJ Abdul Kalam for the post of President. Sanmga said that his only aim was to push for a tribal candidate and build a strong case for it.

He urged all political parties to stand united to build consensus for the presidential candidate. Sangma pushed Kalam's case and sought consensus for his candidature cutting across party lines.

He had earlier received support from Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa for the post of president even as his own party chose not to support his candidature.

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