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Pranab is UPA candidate for Prez election

New Delhi: Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was today chosen by the ruling UPA as its candidate for the President`s post, ending months of speculation.

The nomination of 77-year-old Congress veteran from West Bengal was made at a meeting of the UPA chaired by its Chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi. "Leaders of the constituent parties of the UPA met. It was decided to propose Pranab Mukherjee as candidate for the office of the President of India," Gandhi said at the meeting that lasted nearly an hour.

Gandhi put the name of Mukherjee, the trouble-shooter for the UPA government, and it was approved by the alliance leaders. Key ally Trinamool Congress chief, who along with another ally Samajwadi Party has floated the names of A P J Abdul Kalam and two others, stayed away from the meeting.

She read out a statement at the meeting which said Pranab Mukherjee has a long and distinguished record of public service spanning over five decades.

"There is broad support for his candidature. The UPA appeals to all the political parties and all MPs and MLAs to support the candidature of Mukherjee for the office of President," she said.

Gandhi`s announcement was greeted by a round of applause from leaders of allied parties.

Home Minister P Chidambaram and DMK leader T R Baalu presented golden shawls to Mukherjee and to the Prime Minister and Gandhi. The meeting was attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel (NCP), Ajit Singh (RLD), T R Ballu (DMK) and Omar Abdullah (NC) among others.

Finance minister Mukherjee and his cabinet colleagues- P Chidambaram, A K Antony and Pawan Bansal were also present at the meet. Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel was also in the meeting.

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