New Delhi: The UPA-Left combine on Friday unanimously picked Mohd Hamid Ansari, a seasoned diplomat and a distinguished academic, as their candidate for the Vice-Presidential election scheduled for next month.
70-year-old Ansari was chosen at a meeting of the ruling alliance and its supporting parties at the residence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which was attended among others by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat.
The picking of the Vice-Presidential candidate was a smooth process in sharp contrast to the tug-of-war witnessed during the selection for the Presidential nominee.
"All of us have come to unanimous understanding that Mohd Hamid Ansari would be our candidate," Sonia Gandhi told reporters after the brief meeting of UPA-Left leaders.
She said Ansari, currently Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, has an "excellent record" of serving the nation in many capacities, including as civil servant and diplomat, as an academic and in his current position.
Expressing confidence that Ansari's nomination would be widely welcomed, Gandhi appealed to all political parties to extend their support to his candidacy.
Besides Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the UPA-Left meeting was attended by RJD chief Lalu Prasad, LJP supremo Ram Vilas Paswan, NCP's Praful Patel, Republican Party of India leader Ramdas Athavale, DMK's TR Baalu and PDP's Mehbooba Mufti.
The Left was represented by Karat, Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M), AB Bardhan, D Raja (both CPI) and Abani Roy (RSP). Manmohan Singh's senior Cabinet colleagues Shivraj Patil, Arjun Singh, Pranab Mukherjee and AK Antony also attended the meeting.
Ansari said he felt "humbled" over the UPA-Left decision naming him as their candidate for the Vice-Presidential election. "I am humbled by the confidence reposed in me," he said.
Ansari refused to say more when asked about his prospects in the August 10 election.
Born in Kolkata (then Calcutta) in 1937, Ansari is regarded as an intellectual with Left-of-the-Centre inclination with an expertise in international issues. He studied at Shimla's St Edwards High School and St Xavier's College in Kolkata and Aligarh Muslim University.
Ansari, who joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1961, has served as Indian ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. He was also the Indian High Commissioner to Australia and New Delhi's Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York.
Awarded Padma Shree in 1984, Ansari was the Vice-Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University before he was appointed chairman of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) in March this year.
(With PTI inputs)
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