Notwithstanding the ruling Congress remaining undecided on who should be its presidential candidate, Congress members of Parliament and members of Legislative Assembly have come out in open demanding the post for Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
The campaign is led by West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee chief Pradeep Bhattacharya and party MPs Adhir Chowdhury and Deep Dasmunshi as a counter to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee opposing Mukherjee's candidature.
The Trinamool Congress chief named Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, former West Bengal governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi and former president APJ Abdul Kalam as "best suited" for the job.
Parliamentarians from West Bengal decided to lobby for Mukherjee as the 'son of Bengal' instead of waiting for a final word from the Congress leadership.
The MPs and MLAs will be heading to Delhi next week to persuade Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to nominate Mukherjee for the president's post. However, the Congress leaders from Bengal will not lobby for him without his tacit approval, say insiders.
Only two days ago, Mukherjee indirectly acknowledged his desire to occupy the Rashtrapati Bhawan in an interview to a financial daily. "I love to walk in the morning... I take 40 rounds of my lawns... the Rashtrapati Bhavan has large lawns... one would not need 40 rounds," Mukherjee told the Economic Times.
According to Chowdhury, the Bengal leaders have sought an appointment from the Congress president. "It is for the Congress leadership to decide who will be India's next president, but we will convey our desire about Pranab da," he said.
He said there would be a wider acceptability of Mukherjee, particularly after Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said that he would back any non-bureaucrat from the United Progressive Alliance, ruling out endorsing Vice President Hamid Ansari, who is a retired Indian Foreign Service officer.
Mukherjee has said that he was not interested in contesting another Lok Sabha elections and hence the best option is appoint him president, the West Bengal leaders say.