CPM wants Somnath as next President

via DNA-India published on October 22, 2006

NEW DELHI: The CPI(M) appears determined to install a Marxist as President when APJ Abdul Kalam’s tenure ends in June 2007. Its candidate: Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee.


 


The Marxists have begun lobbying for Chatterjee even as the BJP tries to campaign for Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.


 


The chances of the Congress pushing its candidate into Rashtrapati Bhavan appear as dim as the BJP’s. Both parties lack the numbers in the electoral college as the regional parties are unlikely to back them. The equation is likely to afford the CPI(M) the most influence in the presidential race.


 


The realisation has dawned on the CPI(M) that remaining in power at the Centre may help it expand outside its traditional bastions of West Bengal, Kerala, and Tripura. A comrade in Rashtrapati Bhavan would be ideal as the Marxists work towards a third front government led by them in 2009.


 


The capital recently witnessed a flurry of dinners organised as part of the effort to forge a consensus on the presidential candidate. In one, Sitaram Yechury, member of the CPI(M) politburo and the Rajya Sabha, invited senior BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and VK Malhotra and Vice-President Shekhawat for deliberations.


 


Party general secretary Prakash Karat is expected to seek the support of the Samajwadi Party, Telugu Desam Party, NCP, and Rashtriya Lok Dal. Brinda Karat, another member of the CPI(M) politburo and the Rajya Sabha, is expected to talk to BSP chief Mayawati and AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa.


 


Sections in the Congress favour former Union minister Karan Singh, whose name has also been bandied about as the next foreign minister. Though the Congress can hope to persuade parties such as the RJD and the DMK to back its candidate, other secular parties — the NCP, SP, TDP, BSP, RLD, and AIADMK — are unlikely to support it.


 


But Chatterjee can hope to also get the votes of NDA allies such as the Janata Dal, Biju Janata Dal, and Akali Dal


 

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