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Jun 12, 2012, 03.54 PM IST | Source: CNBC-TV18

FM leads Prez post race, Cong mulls announcement: Rajdeep

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee seems to be the frontrunner among those vying for the coveted post.

Rajdeep Sardesai, Editor-in-Chief, CNN-IBN

The presidential elections scheduled in July is going to decide the next President of India. However, political parties are trying to push in their agenda before selecting a candidate. While Bengal is trying to waive the money it owes to the Centre as interest to its loans, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee seems to be the frontrunner among those vying for the coveted post.

But, the question now is if Mukherjee is chosen as the next President of the country, who will take up the role of the Finance Minister? In an interview with CNBC-TV18, Rajdeep Sardesai, Editor-in-Chief, CNN-IBN said that though, Mukherjee was a favourite for the past few days, over the last 48 hours there is a sense that the Congress is still mulling over the official announcement and might even wait till the last date of notification.

Sardesai believes that a section of the Congress is still not sure whether Mukherjee will be the perfect man for the job or not because there is a question over who would replace him in the government. As long as those questions remain unanswered, there remains some uncertainty over his election.

Below is the edited transcript of the interview on CNBC-TV18. Also watch the accompanying video.

Q: Which way is the wind blowing in New Delhi?

A: As often is the case in recent times we don’t know which way the wind is blowing at the moment. Clearly a few days ago it looked like the wind was blowing firmly in the favour of Pranab Mukherjee but, over the last 48 hours one has got the sense that the Congress is still dithering on making that official announcement and waiting perhaps till the last moment, till the last date of the presidential notification.

We expect the notification to come in the next couple of days and the Prime Minister leaves for Mexico on the June 16. So the impression was that a decision could come before June 16. But, the last day for nominations is perhaps the end of June and the Congress still hasn’t quite made up its mind.
 
Pranab Mukherjee remains the front runner but, one gets the sense that there is a section of the Congress leadership which is still questioning whether Pranab Mukherjee would be the right man for the job or not. Who would replace him in government? These are questions that are still unanswered.

That’s why Pranab Mukherjee has being kept hanging. He has cancelled his trip to Kabul on the June 14 which has led to speculation that he is still very much in the race. But, until it’s done, it’s never done in the Congress party and as we know what happened with Pratibha Patil 5 years ago, the Congress is capable of pulling a rabbit out of the hat at the last moment.

Q: What's the question mark over, is it because the Congress is not confident this is a face or a name that will get all party consensus or is it that he is seen as too important in terms of political functioning in the Congress, key troubleshooter, the amount of EGoMs and group of ministers that he presides over right now?

A: I think if it was on the basis of consensus then, Pranab Mukherjee would be the best candidate. I think no one will publicly oppose Pranab Mukherjee, not even Mamata Banerjee because of the Bengal card.

If the worry for the Congress was that they could get into a bitter contest in the presidential election, then Pranab Mukherjee is the best man for the job because he is the kind of figure around whom a consensus will be built.

I think the concern that the Congress leadership has is two-fold. One, Pranab Mukherjee is not just the Finance Minister, he heads various groups of ministers and he is also the leader of the Lok Sabha. Who will replace Pranab Mukherjee in these multiple roles is a question the Congress has not been fully able to answer.

The other question and it must be raised is whether Sonia Gandhi fully trusts Pranab Mukherjee and this goes back to the stories of the 1980s, his leaving Rajiv Gandhi, his uneasy relationship with 10 Janpath and these questions will haunt Pranab Mukherjee till the very end, till the Congress announces the Presidential anomaly there will be a question mark whether Sonia Gandhi trusts Pranab Mukherjee enough.

The feeling is having taken Pranab Mukherjee so far down the line into believing with all the speculations that he is the front runner, what will you tell Pranab Mukherjee if you don’t make him the president, why is he not being made president? One view is that there is a possibility of making him deputy Prime Minister but, surely that will not really satisfy Pranab Mukherjee.

I think the Prime Minister (PM) himself would like Pranab Mukherjee to move on as president so that the finance ministry then is in the words of one government official, ‘reinvigorated with new faces, new energies’. Possibly, the PM himself will be holding the finance ministry portfolio and appointing a junior MOS. That’s one possibility which is certainly being looked at.

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