NEW DELHI, March 15 � Is the next President of the country going to be from the North-east? If initial thinking in the ruling UPA is any indication, the next person to occupy Rashtrapati Bhavan may well be from the region.
According to highly placed sources, the Congress Party has begun consulting its allies and few Opposition parties on nominating someone from the North-east to the highest Constitutional post. At this stage, no names have been circulated but Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is definitely a possibility, sources said.
The top leader, who is privy to the initial discussions, revealed that response from some of the UPA allies including the troublesome Trinamool Congress was positive. Most of the parties, which were consulted, agreed that nominating someone from the North-east would send a right signal to the insurgency-ridden region. The Congress Party has to get its act together by June.
Gogoi�s feat in quelling insurgency and bringing dreaded outfits like ULFA, NDFB, UPDS and DHD to the negotiating table and bringing back the agenda of development in the State has made him a favourite, said sources, reiterating that names of other leaders from the region may also be considered.
However, TMC has suggested that list be broadened to Eastern region. In which case, choice may fall on Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, a person, who the Congress Party may not agree to part with. However, all the behind-the-scene discussions described as �preliminary� took place before the Rail Budget fiasco that led to souring of relations between the ruling Congress and TMC.
Aware that the ruling UPA �II is not in a position to get its nominee appointed to the post, the Congress Party�s apparent game plan is to evolve a consensus among all political parties. Party managers reckon that given the stakes of the national parties like BJP and CPI-M, besides regional players like Trinamool in the North-east, there may be minimum opposition to a candidate from the North-east.
But the Congress is playing its cards close to its chest, for it is not yet sure of the reactions from major parties like Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, DMK and others.
On the other hand, a section of the Congress leaders are also of the opinion that Vice-President, Hamid Ansari should be nominated as the next President, as majority of the UPA allies, besides the Left parties, may not be averse to supporting a candidate from the minority community
The SP and TMC would have decisive say in the UPA�s choice for the President, sources admitted, adding that Uttar Pradesh Assembly has the largest vote share in the Presidential electoral college.
According to sources, going by UPA-II�s current strength in the State legislatures and both Houses of Parliament, the Congress has an edge in choosing its candidate with a vote share of 30 per cent in the electoral college. But there is a catch � it has to depend on its allies and others.
The Congress has over 275 MPs in both the Houses which account for a vote value of over 1, 90,000 and a vote value of about 1, 35,000 in the legislatures.
Interestingly, an NDA delegation that called on Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee ahead of the Budget session informally suggested that the ruling Party should opt for consensus rather than election for all the three posts of President, Vice-President and Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha.
The term of Vice-President Hamid Ansari ends in August and election of Deputy Chairman is scheduled in April.
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, was in the news recently following reports that he has been selected for the post of Vice-President. The Congress leader, however, dismissed the reports stating that the Party is yet to work out its strategy for the post of Vice-President.