Pranab not ruled out from Prez race: Cong

New Delhi: Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury created flutters today when she talked of how valuable Pranab Mukherjee is to the government but the party stepped in immediately to clear the air saying the Finance Minister is not ruled out from the Presidential race.

The clarification by Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi came at the party briefing today when reporters plied him with questions about Chowdhury`s statement earlier in the day that Mukherjee is "very valued" leader for the party and the government, remarks which were interpreted as her ruling Mukherjee out from the race.

"The consultation process is on. No names have been finalised. Renuka Chowhury`s remarks show the importance of Pranabda. It does not mean he is ruled out for anything. It shows his importance for the party, Parliament and the country," Alvi said.

He said Chowdhury is also a spokesperson and if she had said something, she must have said it with some responsibility. "At this point of time, it is not possible to give the names (of party`s preferences for Presidential election)," he said. To a question about the "confusion" caused by Chowdhury`s statements, Alvi said there is no confusion due to it. Nobody can negate Mukherjee`s importance, he said.

Asked whether Mukherjee`s efficiency is a factor going against him, he said, "it is not going against him. It shows his importance." Earlier, Chowdhury`s remarks on Mukherjee`s utility for party and government prompted West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to say Congress has announced that the Finance Minister is not its candidate for the President`s election.

Chowdhury had said, "it will never be easy to leave Pranabda. He is such a valuable person for us in the party. His contribution to the party cannot be even measured. For him it will not seem to be fair…but he has such an active political mind. He is too involved and knowns politics so well.

"So, well in a way if his name is doing the rounds, I have no authority to say that his name is also being discussed. If his candidature is being talked about, then he is very respected and valued guide for us." Asked if she does not want to see Mukherjee as President, she said: "I want to see him in many posts. I am personally a big fan of him."

As her remarks created a flutter, she sought to clarify saying her remarks have been completely misunderstood and decisions about Presidential candidature are not taken at her level. She said it was unfortunate that her "genuine admiration" for a senior leader of the party has been distorted. "That does not mean we are ruling out Pranab Mukherjee for Presidential election. Presidential candidate is taken at my level," she said, clarifiying her remarks.