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The Rediff Special/ Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
Sonia, CPM wage battle of nerves over President's poll
June 14, 2007
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh [Images] has no business appointment for today till a consensus is reached within the United Progressive Alliance and its allies over Congress president Sonia Gandhi's choice for the post of President.
The task has become difficult and somewhat risky for the UPA's politics.
The chief negotiator of the day in the muddied process of selecting a presidential candidate is Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi.
If on June 12 Mayawati encashed her political importance over the presidency, then Karunanidhi is the star of the day.
In the morning Karunanidhi met Communist leaders Prakash Karat, A B Bardhan and D Raja, after which he met Dr Singh and Sonia Gandhi.
The presidential poll is fast becoming a race for posturing by political parties, all of who are keeping an eye on the general election scheduled for 2009.
The argument goes, when it was decided that the next Presidential nominee will be from the Congress why did the CPM not leave the issue entirely to the Congress president?
Sumit Chakravartty, editor of the leftist publication Mainstream, says, "The Left could not dictate to Congress the name of any Congressman."
"Once the Congress has won the confidence of its allies like the DMK and BSP, the Left should have gone along with it."
He said, "Comrade [Harkishen Singh] Surjeet would have not taken a stand like Prakash Karat. Karat is taking a hard line on the issue."
Patil is a well-known follower of Puttaparthi's Sathya Sai baba.
Similarly, during the last Cabinet reshuffle, the Pranab camp was almost certain that he will be given the home ministry. But, instead, he was made minister for external affairs. It must be so awkward and acutely embarrassing for the intellectual Mukherjee that during the selection of candidate for the post of President people are led to believe that he remains "the most important politician in the government", but is still not worthy enough to be trusted by the party chief.
How Pranab will take this humiliation will be a story for later.
Right now, the CPI-M is getting a fitting reply from Sonia Gandhi for backing Mukherjee.
As the Indian elections are becoming more complex than ever due to the strengthening of regional, caste-based and communal forces, Constitutional crises are not ruled out before or after forming the next government. In the absence of a strong presence by the national parties in New Delhi, the President's Constitutional assessment in complex political situations can become an important function in coming years.
Obviously the Congress, which is in a pivotal position today with an opportunity to nominate the next President, wants to take no chance.
But the Left parties are not to give in so easily, and struck back by revealing their displeasure against Shivraj Patil, Mrs Gandhi's preferred choice. They find Patil too weak for the post of President.
At her press conference the Left parties were given a curt message by Mayawati that she has discussed two-three names but she agrees with Mrs Gandhi on one name. She added that Mrs Gandhi is the right person to reveal the name.
Not only that, yesterday the Congress forced Mukherjee to come out with a press release that 'the chairperson of the UPA (Sonia Gandhi) will announce the name of the Congress candidate for the presidential election after completing the process of consultation with UPA allies and supporting parties'.
This statement is very important for the sake of history, so that people should know who was the kingmaker in 2007.
Whoever becomes the candidate, Mrs Gandhi will be named the kingmaker. And the Left has also been given its message.
So how far can the Left go now, ask Congressmen.
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