Lalu Yadav bats for Hamid Ansari as next President
New Delhi, Vice President Hamid Ansari's candidature for the upcoming presidential polls gained momentum on Tuesday, when RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav supported him over former President A P J Abdul Kalam.
"Our Vice President Hamid Ansari should be made the President. He is a good candidate for the President's post. He should be upgraded as the President," an agency report quoted Lalu telling reporters in what marked the first public advocacy for any of the contenders for who succeeds Pratibha Patil in the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Although Lalu has often acted in tandem with the lead player of the UPA, there were no indications to suggest that he could be echoing Congress's views. Senior sources in Congress insisted that the outspoken RJD chief spoke on his own. Yet, his campaign for Ansari - the first by any senior leader for any of the putative aspirants for the office of President - can help Congress hold its own against efforts by others to thrust their choice on the party by brandishing "secular" considerations.
Lalu's backing for Ansari comes against the backdrop of incessant speculation in certain quarters that SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is working with West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee to goad a reluctant former President Kalam to take a fresh sigh at the office he had held five years ago.
The RJD strongman was forthright in saying that Ansari's candidature was stronger than Kalam's. "Kalam has already been the President. Now, Ansari should be made because he is an able person and his performance is also best in the Rajya Sabha," he explained.
Significantly, Mulayam Singh Yadav also chose Tuesday to distance his party from the endorsement of Kalam's candidature by one of SP spokespersons, Shahid Siddiqui. A day after Siddiqui pledged his party's support for a fresh presidential bid by Kalam, an agency report quoted Mulayam denying that the party has worked out its stand. "The party has not taken any decision on this", the agency reported quoted Mulayam saying.
When asked about Siddiqui's public pitch for Kalam, Mulayam tersely said, "It may be his personal view, but the party has not decided yet."
Lalu's support for Ansari comes amid the growing view among the political class that Congress may find it easy to mobilize support for a non-party person of its choice rather than a card-carrying individual. NCP leader and Union agricultural minister echoed the assessment on Sunday when he said that the effort should be to find a candidate on whom an agreement can be built.
Former Bengal governor Gopalakrishna Gandhi too met Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik in Bhubaneswar, fuelling speculation that the visit was linked to Presidential polls.