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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 105

Pratibha Patil set to become India’s first woman President

By M Rama Rao - Reporting from New Delhi

New Delhi, 15 June 2007 (Asian Pratibha Patil, a senior Congress leader from the western state of Maharashtra, is all set to become the first Indian woman President.

Pratibha, presently governor of Rajasthan is the common candidate of the Congress led ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) - Left combine candidate for President’s election, Sonia Gandhi, the Congress chief, announced after a UPA-Left coordination committee meeting at PM’s residence here on Thursday evening on a day, DMK’s patriarch Muthavel Karunanidhi played a stellar role hammering as much consensus as, according to some political observers, he thwarted, in conjunction with the Left and Pawar’s NCP, the chances of Sonia’s first choice, Shiv Raj Patil, the Home Minister with an image problem.

‘There was total consensus across the board ( to Pratibha Patil)’, Jayanti Natarajan, the Congress spokesman said adding that looking at the composition of electoral college, “I have no doubt that Pratibha Patil would be the first Woman President of India” in a month from now.

The reference is to the reported second thoughts in the BJP camp on fielding Vice President Bhaironsingh Shekhawat in the Presidential election slated for July 19.

Senior, experienced, clean and non-controversial – that is the CV of Pratibha Patil, who is a postgraduate and is in her seventies. She is a Lingayat and hails from Jalgaon in Maharashtra and is known to be very close to the Congress leadership.

Her in-laws belong to Rajasthan and that makes it difficult for Bhairon Singh Shekhawat in making up his mind on entering the fray though he is known as a fighter.

“I am very proud of my mother”, Rajinder Shekhawat, told reporters when his mother’s name was almost finalised.

Pratibha Patil had several firsts to her credit – like for instance, she was the first woman president of Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC). She was a minister in Maharashtra for several years holding several portfolios before she took over as the deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha in 1986 for two years. She was elected to the 10th Lok Sabha in 1991. And became Rajasthan Governor in November 2004 shortly after Congress retu5rned to power as the head of UPA coalition.

The possibility of a senior woman becoming the consensus candidate emerged Thursday afternoon as the selection of ‘consensus’ candidate by the UPA and its Left allies for the P’ election entered the last lap in the face of stubborn opposition from the Left to all the three in Congress list Shivraj Patil - Karan Singh- Sushil Kumar Shinde.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh brought the smaller parties in the UPA into the consultation loop on Thursday and met Sharad Pawar (NCP), Ram Vilas Paswan (Lokjanshakti), E Ahmed (IUML), Dr Ramdas (PMK) among others.

They also held a round of meeting with the Left leaders, Prakash karat et al, who were closeted with the DMK patriarch Muthavel Karunanidhi, who ever since he landed at the New Tamilnadu House in Chanakyapuri, on Wednesday night, has been straining every nerve to iron out differences between the UPA and the Left.

Mr. Karunanidhi met Prakash Karat, AB Bardhan, D Raja, and other Left leaders for the second time in less than 24 hours and scheduled another meeting with them on Thursday. He also conferred with Prime Minister and Congress chief at the PM’s 7 Race course road residence.

He exuded confidence that consensus would emerge without any hiccups on who would be the UPA nominee for President’s post in the election slated for July 19.

Political observers familiar with the on-going consultation process have described Mr Karunanidhi as a moderating voice while sources close to the DMK ventured to compare their leader’s role to that of a king maker recalling that he had played such a role at the time of government formation of the short-lived United Front.

One key player behind the scenes at the time of UF birth was Harkishan Singh Surjeet, the Marxist veteran. His presence is sorely missed this time around as he is not keeping well besides the fact he had voluntarily retired from the Marxist front line front line quite a while ago. Surjeet’s chosen successor, Prakash Karat is at the helm of AK Gopalan Bhavan. But surely old-timers may be missing the Surjeet touch, according to analysts.

Dr Karan Singh met the Tamilnadu chief minister Thursday morning and the meeting pump primed speculation about his prospects as a consensus candidate.

After his talks with Mr Karunanidhi, the former Sadar –e –Riyasat, told reporters that he would be happy if were to be a consensus candidate. “It will be a great honour…. I am available…..”, he said.

Replying to a question, Dr Karan Singh clarified that he was never associated with the VHP. “I am never associated with the VHP. There is the Virat Hindu Samaj I am associated with….for my inter-faith work”, he stated. “I have been public life for so long… I was a union minister in 1967 …. For ten years….”

BJP Take: Both the BJP and the Shiv Sena have made acerbic remarks on the on-going consultation process in the UPA-Left camp. “What type of consensus is this,” asked L K Advani, BJP’s erstwhile strongman. “Never were there so many names to chose from and make a spectacle…,” he remarked.

Shiv Sena Pramukh, Bal Thackeray, has ‘ticked’ of fellow Maharashtrian Shiv raj Patil. “He (Patil) must prove his roots (Maharashtrian) first. Sena will not merely support him because he belongs to Maharashtra”, Thackeray wrote in his party daily ‘Saamna’. "We would be happy to have a Maharashtrian as the President though”, he said.

-Asian Tribune-

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