Mamata, Mulayam upset Cong’s presidential plans
PTI KOLKATA THE Presidential race took a dramatic twist on Wednesday with the Congress indicating that Pranab Mukherjee will be their preferred choice but two key allies, Trinamool Congress and Samajwadi Party, coming out with a surprise response by suggesting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s name.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi informed Trinamool leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee that her party’s first choice for Rashtrapati Bhawan was the Union Finance Minister.
When Banerjee pressed for a second Congress choice Gandhi mentioned Vice- President Hamid Ansari’s name.
It was the West Bengal leader, in the capital at the invitation of Gandhi, who disclosed the Congress choices to the media, ending weeks of guessing game.
A bigger surprise came immediately thereafter when Banerjee and SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav disclosed the names of Singh, former President APJ Abdul Kalam and former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee as their preferred candidates.
Any one of them would be acceptable to them if there was a consensus.
This dramatic turn of events left the Presidential race wide open and put the Congress in a dilemma. The party needs the support of both TMC and SP to ensure that its candidate wins.
Other allies such as DMK, NCP, RLD and NC, have already indicated their support for Mukherjee.
Meanwhile, as speculation about candidates for presidential poll intensified after Election Commission announcing July 19 as the poll date, NDA convenor Sharad Yadav on Wednesday said the Opposition alliance has not zeroed on names for the posts of President and vice-president so far.
each other. We have not decided for any name in any meeting of NDA. Only Jaswant Singh can tell whom did he meet and why did he meet. It is normal. We keep meeting,” he said when asked whether NDA could propose Singh’s name for vice president’s post.
Singh had on Tuesday met Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav triggering speculation within the BJP that its leader could be lobbying for the vice-president’s office.
Yadav, who is the chief of key NDA ally JD-U, also dismissed speculation that his party has indicated its preference amid reports in a section of media that JD-U’s first preference is vice president Hamid Ansari.
“NDA has decided that when a proposal comes from the UPA particularly from Sonia Gandhi, we will sit and take stock of it.
Let the name first come from UPA. Only then, we will decide,” Yadav said.
He also parried a question on whether JD-U will support the candidature of Pranab Mukherjee, widely speculated to be the UPA’s choice for the President’s post.
“Has the name of Pranab Mukherjee come from them as yet? Has Sonia Gandhi made any such proposal? Why this kite flying. Let the proposal come first, we will think then,” Yadav said.
He also parried a suggestion that Trinamool Congress could prefer former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee for the top constitutional office.
“It’s not that any one party will be able to decide it... I do not know what her party leader in Bengal said but Mamata Banerjee is meeting Sonia Gandhi. Let the proposals come from them,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sharad Pawar, chief of the Nationalist Congress Party which is a United Progressive Alliance (UPA) constituent, on Wednesday stressed on building consensus on the next president and refused to comment on the names suggested by alliance parties headed by Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mamata Banerjee.
“We need to talk again and how we can arrive at a consensus..
would not like to comment on any one name. We have to see how we can unanimously arrive at a common name and how we can make a way through... we have to evolve a consensus,” Pawar told a TV channel.
His remark came after Mulayam Singh and Banerjee together announced the name of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh along with those of former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee for the July 19 presidential poll. Pawar said he will react on any names only after they had been discussed with him by the Congress leadership.
Pawar was the first Congressled UPA’s constituent to meet Congress chief Sonia Gandhi last month over the issue and had stressed on consensus.