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Pranab would win comfortably: Bansal

Chandigarh: Congress today said Pranab Mukherjee would win comfortably in the event of a contest for the Presidential post.

"After the support from parties including SP, BSP, we are hopeful of getting more support for Pranab ji from others… We can only appeal. We hope she (Mamata Banerjee) will also extend her support now. Pranab has also appealed to Mamata for support, saying she was like a sister to him," senior Congress leader and Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal told reporters here.

To a question Bansal saw Pranab "winning comfortably", even if there was a contest. "There is no doubt about that, but first we are not even certain if there will be a contest," he said. Asked about Mamata earlier making public her choice for former President APJ Abdul Kalam by ignoring her coalition partner, Bansal said, "before the candidature was announced, she was entitled to her view. After declaration of Mukherjee`s candidature, we will request her to support him…may be she does a re-think (on supporting Pranab)".

He tried to play down questions on whether Congress will dump the Trinamool Congress in the wake of the recent developments. "What she said earlier was her outlook…everyone (other partners) were unanimous about Pranab`s choice". On Mamata putting forward Kalam`s name, Bansal said, "one should ask Kalam is he willing to contest. It is up to Kalam whether he would like to contest or not".

On PA Sangma, the Chandigarh MP said: "It was the NCP leader Sharad Pawar who told Sonia (Gandhi) ji to immediately clear Pranab`s name without any delay…if he still wants to contest, it is his right." Bansal said Mukherjee was a leader of high stature, whom parties across political spectrum held in high regard. Bansal also said BJP leader Yashwant Sinha had recently said the Parliament may lose one of the highly capable leader by pointing out that he (Pranab) may soon occupy the President`s post.

"We all will miss him given the role he has been playing in various capacities. Even in the Parliament, I used to consult him often on various issues. The postitive side is that he will play a bigger role now for the nation. It is true that he has been our (Congress`) Sankatmochan (trouble shooter) who has had a vast political career," he said. Bansal said once Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is back from two crucial back-to-back international summits, Pranab will file his nomination on or any day after June 25.

Later, Bansal inaugurated the Financial Literacy and Credit Counseling Centres in Daria village, Chandigarh, in the premises of Central Bank of India. Speaking on the occasion, Bansal said Reserve Bank of India has issued guidelines to open these centres in rural areas, but most of the banks have opened them in urban and semi-urban centres.

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