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Call for President of stature

New Delhi, June 5: Wanted, a head of state with an “aura”.

As the political establishment waits for Sonia Gandhi to reveal her choice for the next occupant of Rashtrapati Bhavan, a key player from the heartland and a former BJP Union minister outlined their views on the kind of President they expected.

Both stressed it should be a person of stature.

The Samajwadi Party, whose support counts numerically in the electoral college that votes the next President, has let it be known it wouldn’t settle for a “dark horse” or a “lightweight” choice.

The leader, who is close to Samajwadi president Mulayam Singh Yadav, said the party’s choice was finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.

“There will be hundred per cent consensus over Pranabda’s name. Wait and see, even the BJP and the NDA will back him. If he is not the UPA’s choice and Congress leaders spring a surprise like they did in 2007 (Pratibha Patil’s candidacy), we might reconsider our support. We will look at other options. The President’s office carries a certain aura, a gravitas and nobody should foist a non-serious nominee,” the leader said.

Sources said Mulayam had conveyed the same views to the Congress president.

Former BJP foreign and finance minister Jaswant Singh dismissed speculation that he was an aspirant sparked by a meeting he had weeks ago with Mulayam. But he said the “office of the President should not be through an election that is infected with party politics and convenience”.

Singh emphasised that the President must have a “stature that is recognised not simply within India but has an international footprint”.

The BJP has chosen to wait for the UPA to unveil its hand after Lok Sabha Opposition leader Sushma Swaraj’s first outburst ruling out Vice-President Hamid Ansari and endorsing Kalam. But Singh was clear on what the nominee “should be” like.

“He or she should be someone with an understanding of the ethos of India and grasp the essence of the challenges confronting the country,” he said. “If you reduce it to the political convenience of parties, I am afraid you will miss these.”