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Rediff.com  » News » Pranab, Sangma or Ansari: Race to Prez post heats up

Pranab, Sangma or Ansari: Race to Prez post heats up

Last updated on: June 12, 2012 23:50 IST

Pranab, Sangma or Ansari: Race to Prez post heats up

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The Congress wants to show that it is Sonia Gandhi who will nominate the presidential candidate, to discard the impression that the party chief has been given a fait accompli if she does not want the Congress candidate to lose, says Renu Mittal

Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who had reportedly opposed Finance Minister and veteran Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee's candidature for the post of the president, has told a few of her supporters that "she does not want to be seen as creating roadblocks for a Bengali president".
 
This is a turnaround from her earlier stand.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi had earlier called up Banerjee in Kolkata and urged her to come to Delhi to hold further discussions on the new presidential candidate.

Mamata will hold a meeting with Sonia Gandhi in Delhi on Wednesday morning. The Congress chief is likely to put forward a nominee for the president's post and seek the West Bengal CM's reaction.

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Image: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee


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Sources in the Trinamool state that while it is no secret that there is no love lost between Mamata and Pranab, she is aware that a chunk of Trinamool members of Parliament may vote for the current finance minister. The party whip does not apply in the presidential elections and voting is held outside the House.

According to a Congress leader, the party is confident that Mamata would not be in a position to oppose the first Bengali president, if Pranab Mukherjee is announced as the UPA's candidate.
 
Pranab has already received considerable support from various UPA allies like the Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Rashtriya Lok Dal, apart from parties like the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, which support the ruling alliance from outside.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance has not revealed its cards yet but the saffron party may be inclined to support Pranab if he is the UPA candidate. In fact, BJP leader Maneka Gandhi has issued a statement saying the country needs a president like Pranab Mukherjee.

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Image: Pranab Mukherjee


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In such a situation, it is likely that NCP leader P A Sangma may not contest the election for the president's post but may become a candidate for the post of the vice president. Even for the election to the post of the VP, the ruling UPA would be skating on thin ice.

For the president's post, the combined strength of the entire UPA, the Left Front, the SP and the BSP does not cross 52 per cent of the total votes. In such a scenario, there is a strong likelihood that the UPA may lose to Sangma, say senior Congress leaders.

Sangma, a tribal candidate, is likely to get support from within the UPA as well as from other regional leaders like All India Anna Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, Biju Janata Dal chief and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, some leaders from the BJP and bulk of the leaders from the north-east.
 
With the Congress facing dissidence in Andhra Pradesh,Karnataka and other states, there are no guarantees that even within the party, the votes would go to a candidate other than Pranab Mukherjee.

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Image: Nationalist Congress Party leaders Sharad Pawar and PA Sangma

Tags: UPA , BSP , NCP , BJP , Biju Janata Dal

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It is likely that after the consultations are concluded, the name of the UPA's candidate would be announced after the formal notification is issued on June 16. There are mixed signals on whether Sonia Gandhi would want to wait for the PM to return from his foreign trip on June 23 or make the announcement in his absence.

Pranab Mukherjee, who was slated to go to Kabul, has cancelled his visit and will now remain in Delhi. Mamata is expected to meet him after she holds discussions with Sonia Gandhi.
 
While the Congress is insistent that no decision has yet been taken on a candidate and discussions are going on, a section of the party says that Vice President Hamid Ansari is still very much in the race.

The party wants to show that it is Sonia Gandhi who will nominate the presidential candidate, to discard the impression that she has been given a fait accompli if she does not want the Congress candidate to lose.

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Image: Congress chief Sonia Gandhi


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With numbers running thin for the vice presidential election, there is a perception that it has to be a package deal, since the Congress would find the going tough if regional leaders and the BJP put up a candidate like Sangma for the vice president's post.
 
According to sources, the party leadership is looking to strike the right deals by which they can get their vice presidential nominee through, since that is important in running and managing the Rajya Sabha.

Hamid Ansari may also be considered for a second term as the vice president, since a very strong Muslim lobby is backing him. But that can happen only with the support of UPA allies and other parties, as SP chief Mulayam Singh wants his own man as vice president and NCP chief Sharad Pawar would be keen to see Sangma win if he contests.

The BJP is looking to prop up its own man for the vice president's post, with Jaswant Singh meeting Mulayam Singh on Tuesday, but to little effect.

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Image: Vice President Hamid Ansari


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