On vote eve, Pranab brushes up on past Presidents

"I am neither in the party nor in the government. There are no files to read and sign nor official meetings to attend." Even as he made this comment in his characteristic matter-of-fact style, UPA's Presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee looked much relaxed and at ease at his 13 Talkatora Road residence Wednesday afternoon, just a day before the voting for the Presidential election.

A book on the speeches and writings of India's second President Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan on his desk that seemed to have been borrowed from the Parliament library, Mukherjee exuded the confidence of a veteran fighter but refused to acknowledge that victory will be his on July 22 when the votes would be counted. "Let the results be known first," he smilingly tells well-wishers.

It was not surprising though that the senior leader, respectfully addressed as Pranabda in Delhi's political circuit, had been reading up extensively on the country's Presidentship. He did hint, for instance, that he could cast his vote in Thursday's election as he is still an MP, pointing out that Zail Singh had done so as a Presidential candidate. Fakruddin Ali Ahmed and, and now Mukherjee, are the only other sitting MPs chosen as Presidential nominees.

"Dr Radhakrishnan was the only incumbent who conferred the Bharat Ratna on outgoing President Babu Rajendra Prasad in his acceptance speech, the day he became President," was another gem Mukherjee came up with. Dr Radhakrishnan as well as former President Dr A P J Abdul Kalam were conferred the Bharat Ratna before they came to occupy the Rashtrapati Bhawan, he added.

Presidential election, however, has undergone a change over the years owing to the change in the polity. Admitting this, Mukherjee offers an insight. "It is only since 1992, after coalition rule come in, that political parties are now deciding," he said.

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