On Presidential question, Mukherjee himself in dark

Dhaka: Pranab Mukherjee today refused to add any fodder to the talk of him being the front-runner for the presidential candidate, saying he was himself "in the dark" over the issue that has hogged headlines back home. The past week has witnessed intense speculation in India over who would occupy the Rashtrapati Bhawan next, with Mukherjee and the current Vice President Hamid Ansari being touted as the main contenders.

However, little has been said officially by the ruling UPA over the issue. Mukherjee too has refused to comment anything on the matter. The Finance Minister was posed with the critical question during an interaction with senior editors here. "We are delighted that your name was proposed for Indian Presidency? What`s your comment?" asked a senior scribe. Mukherjee laughed at the suggestion, before saying that he himself was "in the dark" on the question.

"I am afraid I do not know. In our system of decision making, unless a decision is taken nobody discloses it officially. So, I am in the dark as you are," replied Mukherjee, who is often called the UPA government`s `trouble shooter`. Mukherjee, 76, arrived here last evening on a two-day tour to join the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Rabindranath Tagore.

His comments, that gave no indication on what is going on in the back channel deliberations in the Congress and the UPA, came days after he had asked the media not to speculate on the issue. Earlier, while on his way to Manila where he attended the 45th Annual Meeting of Asian Development Bank`s Board of Governors, Mukherjee had dismissed these reports as speculation. "It is speculative. I don`t want to comment on it," he had said.