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UPA-Left names Ansari for Vice-President

Special Correspondent

Unanimous choice announced by Sonia Gandhi



Mohammad Hamid Ansari

NEW DELHI: The former diplomat, Mohammad Hamid Ansari, was on Friday unanimously declared the United Progressive Alliance-Left candidate for the August 10 Vice-Presidential election. The name of Mr. Ansari, Chairman of the National Minorities Commission, was announced by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi at a meeting of the UPA-Left Coordination Committee here.

Over the last two days, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat, who had taken the initiative to finalise the name, had held consultations with allies in the UPA and the Congress.

Rashtriya Janata Dal president Lalu Prasad, whose party initially had some reservations, took the floor at the meeting to say that Ms. Gandhi would announce the decision.

She said: “All of us have come to a unanimous understanding that Mr. Mohammed Hamid Ansari would be our candidate. He has an excellent record in serving the nation in many capacities, including as a civil servant and diplomat, as an academic and in his current position.”

The UPA-Left formation, she said, was confident that his nomination would be widely welcomed, and appealed to other political parties to support him. The announcement was greeted by thumping of desks.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Union Ministers Pranab Mukherjee, Arjun Singh, A.K. Antony, Shivraj Patil and Prithviraj Chavan, as also Ahmed Patel, political secretary to the Congress president, were present. The UPA leaders present included Lalu Prasad, T.R. Baalu (DMK), Praful Patel (NCP), Ramdas Athawale (RPI), A.K. Moorthy (PMK) and Mehbooba Mufti (NC).

Clear majority seen

According to UPA poll managers, with Left support the alliance has a clear majority in an electoral college comprising 788 Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs. The UPA plus Left have 401 members; the number will go up by 24 if the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) joins in.

The National Democratic Alliance has 240 and the United National Progressive Alliance 81 MPs. There are 35 others including 11 nominated MPs. The poll managers calculate that at least eight nominated MPs will go with the ruling coalition, informed sources said.

Earlier in the day at a press conference, BSP president and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati disclosed that she had received a set of names from Ms. Gandhi which would be considered by the party and communicated to the UPA chairperson.

Mr. Ansari has written numerous academic papers and newspaper articles on West Asian politics. (He has been a frequent contributor to The Hindu on this topic.)

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