Pranab launches campaign, meets Karunanidhi
Mukherjee met UPA's key partner DMK President M Karunanidhi at his CIT Nagar residence here, formally kickstarting the campaign.
The former Finance Minister, who enjoys a close rapport with Karunanidhi having been the emissary of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on many occasions, said it was natural to start the campaign from here as DMK was a stable partner of UPA.
“DMK is a stable partner of UPA-I and UPA II. Therefore, it is quite natural that I have started my campaign with the blessings and support of Dr Karunanidhi and from Chennai itself...”, Mukherjee told reporters ahead of his meeting with MPs and MLAs of Congress and other UPA allies to enlist their support.
Mukherjee, who is pitted against former Lok Sabha Speaker P A Sangma, said that apart from UPA, Samajwadi Party, BSP, CPI(M), Forward Bloc, JD(U) and Shiv Sena have extended their support to his candidature.
“I am seeking the support of those political parties who have not yet declared their choice for the Presidential election..”, he said.
His remarks are apparently aimed wooing West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who had promoted the candidacy of former President A P J Abdul Kalam, rejecting Congress President Sonia Gandhi's proposal on Mukherjee. After her joint proposal with Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav backfired with the latter backing Mukherjee, Banerjee has kept everyone guessing on her support.
To a question, Mukherjee said “there is no scope of happening any miracle. After all, it is a matter of numbers. Therefore, there is no question of any miracle. I do not believe in any miracle”.
Mukherjee, for whom Karunanidhi had strongly pitched for even before Congress leadership went public with its Presidential nominee choice, chose Chennai to start his campaign at the behest of the 89-year old DMK patriarch.
Outgoing President Pratibha Patil had also preferred Chennai as the launch pad for her Presidential campaign in 2007.
A traditional welcome was given to Mukherjee when he arrived here. Karunanidhi's daughter and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi, her husband Aravindhan and DMK Parliamentary Party leader T R Baalu warmly greeted Mukherjee.
Earlier, Mukherjee who arrived by a special aircraft, was given a rousing reception at Tambaram Air Force Station. He was received by Union Ministers Ghulam Nabi Azad and V Narayanaswamy and state Congress leaders.
Speaking at a dinner hosted by Karunanidhi, Mukherjee said he considered some offices should not be sought after but should be offered.
“The beauty of the Indian constitution is that the notional executive head (president) does not exercise the real executive power. But president office has its own significance and responsibilities (i.e) to uphold spirit of Indian unity in diversity, pluralism because India is multi-lingual, multi-religious, multi-cultural multi-ethnic country.”
“Therefore I always believed that there are some offices which are not to be sought but offered. So I was really delighted when UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi offered me the post and endorsed by all leaders of UPA,” he told a meeting attended by DMK and Congress leaders including M K Alagiri, MK Stalin, P Chidambaram and GK Vasan.
He said he chose to campaign from Tamil Nadu with the support and blessing of Karunanidhi since he was not only a seniormost active political leader of the country today but considering his association with him since the 1970s.
Holding that he enjoyed the support of the majority of the electoral college where the numbers were “pre-determined”, he appealed to undecided parties such as the Trinamool Congress to back him.
“For those who have not decided, including one of the UPA partner Trinamool Congress and certain other parties, support the UPA Candidate who is supported by parties who do not even belong to UPA,” he said. Karunanidhi hailed Mukherjee as the “priceless jewel of Indian democracy,” and said his victory was a foregone conclusion.
“You are the most suited to the post of President of India. You will definitely be a priceless jewel on the crown of Indian democracy,” he said.
Mukherjee later addressed party workers from Tamil Nadu and Puduchery and hoped that Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee will take a decision.
“She has not yet taken a decision. I have appealed to her.. I hope in due course of time, she will take a decision,” he said, adding, he would be happy to join the league of former Presidents such as Rajendra Prasad and S Radhakrishnan with the support of the members of the electoral college.
Asked about his priorities after becoming President and whether he would take any step on the three death row convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, Mukherjee said the President's role has been clearly spelt out in the constitution starting from Article 53 and following chapters.
“In practice what President should do has been done by many illustrious Presidents.... I need not bother about working on any specific role,” he added.