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Cong to build consensus on VP poll

New Delhi, July 11: The Congress leadership does not want to antagonise any of the parties supporting its presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee, at least till the elections on July 19, and has decided not to thrust its own choice for Vice-President on them.

Sources said the party would go by the broadest possible consensus, which, at present, appears to be emerging on the incumbent, Hamid Ansari.

However, if major hurdles arise, the Congress will not bulldoze its way but strike a compromise to accept any alternative that carries the maximum number of parties along.

Although no decision has been taken yet, the sources said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was exploring the minds of party leaders on the possibility of another term for Ansari. He called the CPM’s Sudhakar Reddy and the CPI’s A.B. Bardhan today and took only one name — that of Ansari.

Congress leaders explained this as an obvious courtesy shown to the sitting Vice-President as “his name cannot be summarily dismissed”.

The Congress has called a formal meeting of the UPA on July 14, which will be attended by Trinamul, too.

Although Trinamul has already registered its objection to Ansari’s candidature, other allies have indicated support for him. Sources said the Janata Dal (United), too, had shown its readiness to support Ansari.

One Congress leader said: “We can presume that Mamata Banerjee has curtailed her own clout within the UPA and her objection would not alter the course.”

Mamata is not expected to attend the meeting, but railway minister Mukul Roy will be present.

The formal announcement of the next Vice-President’s name would be made after the meeting.

The nomination will be filed around July 17. The last date of filing nominations is July 20, a day after the presidential election. The election is in August.

Congress leaders agreed that the decision to go for the broadest possible consensus on the Vice-President, despite the fact that there was no worry over numbers, was linked to the presidential election.

The Congress, they said, did not want to show its “arrogance” at a time parties have broken old associations to back Mukherjee for President.

The Congress leadership thinks the widespread support to Mukherjee had exposed the BJP’s limitations in forming coalitions.