M A I N   N E W S

Presidential race hots up
Mamata, Mulayam queer the pitch for Congress
Tribune News Service

trinamool-sp choices

APJ Abdul Kalam
APJ Abdul
Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, June 13
The race for the next President of India turned complex with two important supporters of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance putting three new names on the table.

cong nominees

Pranab Mukherjee

The Trinamool Congress (TMC), an ally of the ruling coalition and the Samajwadi Party (SP), which offers support to the combination from the outside, suggested the names of former President APJ Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee as the three candidates whose names should be considered for the topmost Constitutional post in the country, not necessarily in that order.

Calling the shots

Mulayam and Mamata, whose parties have a 10 per cent vote share in the electoral college and are in a commanding position to dictate terms in the Presidential election, have decided to work together to checkmate the Congress in taking any unilateral decisions.

Mumís The Word

While there was no official word from the Congress on its presidential preferences, it was Mamata who disclosed these names following her meeting with Sonia. No senior Congress leader was available for comments following the development.

The dramatic announcement at a joint media interaction came here, soon after the TMC chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee called on Congress president Sonia Gandhi and announced that the lead party in the coalition prefers Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Vice President Hamid Ansari as the possible candidates for the post of the next president, in that order.

Did Yadav allow himself to be the Sutradhar in the evolving scenario to push the candidature of Manmohan Singh on behalf of the Congress high command became a matter of intense speculation, even as the Congress party chose to remain silent on the offer rather than scotch it.

The historical role of Yadav in pushing the candidature of Abdul Kalam, a decade ago that was swiftly adopted by the then Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance Government is not lost in history to draw parallel.

In 2002, the SP chief had the endorsement from Telugu Desam Party, a key ally of the Vajpayee government in catapulting the candidature of Kalam. Incidentally, in the current scenario, the TMC is considered too crucial for the Congress-led coalition at the Centre in the presidential polls.

Appealing for a consensus on one of these candidates, Banerjee said: "The names are not in any order of preference. Let all political parties take a decision."

The SP and the TMC together have ten per cent vote share in the electoral college and are in a commanding position to dictate terms in the Presidential election. Interestingly, these parties have decided to work together to checkmate the

Congress in taking any unilateral decisions. On his part, the Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, who had backed Pranab

Mukherjee's candidature, said: "The UPA will have to work on a consensus candidate in light of the TMC-SP proposing PM as one of their choices for President."

A decade ago, Yadav wrecked the nascent Peoples' Front, a platform of four Left parties, including the SP and the Janata Dal (Secular) to back Abdul Kalam. It remains to be seen whether the veteran socialist leader is moving the pieces on political chessboard to checkmate the Congress nominee or seek a better deal for his party.

While Chatterjee told television news channels that he was not approached, the CPI

(M) general secretary Prakash Karat maintained that the party and the Left will make it stand known only after hearing from the Congress-led UPA. The presidential sweepstakes have just about begun.





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