Congress president Sonia Gandhi [ Images ] is hosting a dinner for United Progressive Alliance [ Images ] MPs and supporting parties on July 18, the eve of the Presidential election to consolidate the victory of its Presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee [ Images ]. The election is to be held on July 19.
Along with this the exercise for selecting the next Vice President of India [ Images ] has also begun and by July 18 when the dinner takes place, the UPA Vice Presidential candidate would have filed his/her nomination papers.
While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [ Images ] has begun to call leaders of political parties, it is expected that there may be a UPA meeting held to finalise the candidate, just as it happened in the case of the Presidential election when Pranab Mukherjee was selected as the UPA nominee for the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
Janata Dal-Secular leader and former Prime Minister Deve Gowda [ Images ] has said that PM Singh spoke to him and mooted the name of Hamid Ansari to be given yet another term as Vice President.
But the Congress has officially made it clear that so far there is no decision on the Vice Presidential candidate and that consultation would be held.
Along with this the prime minister also spoke to Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Prakash Karat [ Images ] a few days ago, to discuss the Vice Presidential election. But so far there is no word from Karat on the name they have in mind.
The Congress has to take its allies into confidence and it is only after that they would approach the smaller parties. That is why it is interesting as to how and why the prime minister spoke to Gowda ahead of the bigger allies.
Senior Congress leaders from Karnataka [ Images ] say that Gowda is trying to consolidate his Muslim vote bank, particularly after he defeated a Muslim Congress candidate for the MLC election and instead got his own nominee elected.
They say he would like to further carry forward this message of wooing the minorities and in that context he would have taken the name of Hamid Ansari.
Senior leaders in the Congress say they are preparing for the Vice Presidential election minus Trinamool Congress [ Images ] chief Mamata Banerjee [ Images ] as it is beginning to look like she may not support Pranab Mukherjee for the Presidential post.