Fresh twist in Presidential race: Names of Manmohan Singh, Kalam crop up
India’s Presidential race took a dramatic twist on Wednesday with the names of Manmohan Singh, former President A.P. J. Abdul Kalam and former Speaker Somnath Chatterjee doing the rounds in New Delhi.
This surprising development that caught the media unawares came about after a meeting Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee had with Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav. Mamata had earlier met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi amid indications that the Congress was trying to evolve a consensus on Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature.
But Mamata along with Mulayam Singh Yadav countered the Congress move on Pranab by a surprise response suggesting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's name. Kalam has not shown much interest but has dropped hints to close advisers he would consider the idea only if there was a consensus and not in case of a contest.
Sonia Gandhi informed the West Bengal Chief Minister that her party's first choice for Rashtrapati Bhawan was the Union Finance Minister. When Mamata pressed for a second Congress choice, Ms Gandhi mentioned Vice President Hamid Ansari's name.
It was the West Bengal leader, in the capital at the invitation of Ms Gandhi, who disclosed the Congress choices to the media, ending weeks of guessing game.
A bigger surprise came immediately thereafter when Mamata 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. Anyone 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 Pranab Mukherjee.
By proposing the Prime Minister's name, Mamata and Mulayam may have caused embarrassment to the Congress and by implication to him also as some political observers interpret this move as a loss of confidence in him. The Congress Working Committee at its recent meeting was critical of the Manmohan Singh’s failure on the economic and price front.
But in public, Ms Gandhi had been fully backing Dr Singh’s policies. Some Congress leaders are not averse to the idea of Dr Singh as President as an honourable exit from the PM’s chair.
That could also possibly pave the way for Rahul Gandhi to take over and try to improve Congress prospects in the remaining two years of the tenure of of UPA II.
- Asian Tribune -