Mamata plays pivotal role in presidential talk
New Delhi, June 13 (IANS) Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee was at the centre of a political drama Wednesday when she stunned everyone by announcing three new names, including that of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as her and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh's Yadav preferences for the president's post.
Banerjee, who reached New Delhi Tuesday night on the invitation of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, was the one who made the announcement that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was the first choice of Congress for the president's post followed by Vice President Hamid Ansari.
The announcement appeared to singal that the decks had been cleared for Mukherjee, the most seasoned Congress leader, for the top job.
Immediately after meeting Gandhi, she visited Mulayam Singh Yadav for the second time. Banerjee had met him Tuesday night soon after arriving in the capital.
But in a matter of an hour, the mercurial Benerjee, with Mulayam Singh by her side, sprang a surprise by naming former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Manmohan Singh and former Lok Sabha leader Somnath Chatterjee as the preferred choices.
"We discussed three names ... A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Manmohan Singh and Somanth Chatterjee," Yadav told reporters.
He also appealed to all political parties to arrive at a consensus and support any one of the three.
"We decided the names based on the persons who are honest, know the constitution and can work for the nation. It will be good to have a president elected unanimously by all political parties," Banerjee said.
Both leaders denied having a priority for any one of the candidates, saying it is for the political parties to support one of them.
When asked about Congress's choice of Mukherjee or Ansari, Banerjee said that was the Congress' choice and not hers.
The announcement caused a major embrassment to the Congress and in a way ruled out candidature of Mukherjee, the most-preferred Congress nominee.
Banerjee, who flitted in and out of meetings with key Congress and ally leaders through the day, clearly played a pivotal role. The flurry of meetings also indicated that a larger deal-making was taking place between the Congress and its key allies, especially the Trinamool, that is bargaining for a financial bailout from the government in exchange for its political support to the Congress and government moves.
But she vehemently denied that her state's demand for a financial package was linked to the party supporting a Congress presidential candidate.
The political drama enacted by the two regional parties, harbouring national ambitions, has left the presidential race wide open and put the Congress in a precarious situation.
The United Progressive Alliance's other partners - DMK, Nationalist Congress Party and Rashtriya Lok Dal - had earlier said they would go with whoever the Congress chooses.
But the Trinamool Congress and the Samajwadi Party are the key to the success of the Congress nominee in the presidential polls.
--Indo-ASian News Service
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