Will vote for Pranab for President, but with pain: Mamata
In a complete U-turn and ending a month-long suspense, Trinamool Congress announced its decision to vote for United Progressive Alliance's presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee 'in the interest of coalition'.
After proposing the name of A P J Abdul Kalam and two others a month ago creating a near crisis for the UPA government last month, Trinamool chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday disclosed the party's decision saying it had no other option and that it was not to support any individual.
The decision of the party, the second largest constituent in the UPA with 19 MPs in Lok Sabha and 9 in Rajya Sabha, comes apparently under pressure from within the party to back Mukherjee, who would be the first Bengali to become a President, and not not to ignore local sentiments.
"We have taken the decision with pain and not from our heart. We have taken the decision without any provocation or financial deal," Banerjee told the media after a meeting of party leaders.
Click NEXT to read further...
Image: Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee
'We have taken the decision due to our commitment to people'
"We wanted (former president) APJ Kalam to be president...we would have done everything to make him win...but it is or misfortune that he refused to run," she said, adding that she wishes she "could have voted for Mukherjee with a smile on her face, but that is not the case."
She made a bare reference to Bengali origins of the UPA candidate saying "Pranabda is from Bengal but we have taken the decision due to our commitment to the people."
The Trinamool decision was immediately welcomed by the Congress party in Delhi and by Mukherjee's son Abhijit, an MLA in West Bengal.
With Trinamool's decision, Mukherjee has the support of nearly 7-lakh vote value in an electoral college of nearly 11 lakh. Apart from UPA partners, he also has the support of the Communist Party of India-Marxist and Forward Bloc and Bharatiya Janata Party allies the Janata Dal-United and the Shiv Sena.
Image: Congress-led United Progressive Alliance nominee for Presidential poll Pranab Mukherjee
'We had no other option but to support Pranab'
Banerjee was virtually cornered in the UPA after she was ditched by Samajwadi Party last month after she and Mulayam Singh sponsored the name of former President Kalam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former West Bengal Governor Rajmohan Gandhi.
Asked why her party has chosen to support Mukherjee with whom she has blown hot and cold in the recent past, Banerjee said, "We took the decision in the interest of the UPA coalition and in greater national interest and keeping in mind the people's interests.
"We are not supporting any individual. But we have no option. It is a tough decision we have taken but not to please anyone. We took the decision reluctantly. The pleasure we would have got is missing in our decision today."
She said, "If we had abstained from voting it would have been a plus for Pranab Mukherjee. If we vote, then also it would be a plus for him. We had no other option."
Asked about her party's stand on the vice-presidential election in which incumbent Hamid Ansari has been named the UPA nominee and BJP leader Jaswant Singh the National Democratic Alliance candidate, Banerjee said, "The party will decide later.
"The vice-president, we will decide later. We are not contesting," she said.
Banerjee said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh contacted her over phone and requested for her party's support for Ansari.
Trinamool Congress earlier proposed name of former West Bengal governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi and former Trinamool Congress MP Krishna Basu as the vice-presidential candidates at the last UPA-II meeting.
'It's wise not to waste votes by abstaining'
Stating that her party was the second largest ally of the UPA and had MLAs in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and UP, she said, "We have a vote value of 50,000. Had the Trinamool Congress abstained, it would have been a waste of votes. Every vote is important.
"In that situation, we have unanimously decided to vote for Pranab Mukherjee."
She told a questioner that she had not spoken with Mukherjee for last eight months, though she had met him 15 to 20 times after her party came to power in the state. "I have no idea why there were no talks. I invited him to have a cup of tea at Writers' Buildings. But he did not come. Perhaps he did not have the time."
To another question, she said, "Forget it (the past). It is an old chapter. We will vote for him. Let him remain in good health."
Banerjee also said she had worked hard to make Mukherjee return to the Congress after he was expelled from the party in the late eighties.
She said the prime minister and the Congress president rang her up. "I have personal relations with Sonia Gandhi and also have good relations with the prime minister. I maintain best of relations with many other parties."
Stating that her party had no intention to topple the UPA government, Banerjee said, "But we are in a coalition, we will oppose their anti-people policies like price rise, FDI in retail, insurance sector and privatisation. The Congress has no majority. We want consultations and coordination which is absent."
Asked if there was any possibility of a financial package for the state, Banerjee said, "The Trinamool did not go for any bargaining and never entered into any deal in taking this decision. We don't believe in that kind of politics."
The Trinamool supremo said that her party had wanted former president A P J Abdul Kalam to contest the presidential poll. "But he did not contest as many political parties did not support and accept him. It is our misfortune. Had Kalam contested, we would have supported him," she said.
The Trinamool chief said, "Nobody compelled us to take the decision. We did not bow before anybody. It is our unconditional decision. We have taken the decision without any provocation, conspiracy, deal or appeal."
She said, "At times, in the interest of the people and the state and in the greater interest of democracy, such a decision has to be taken. We thought that whatever decision we have taken, is out of our commitment to the people and not to fulfill our political commitment."
The Trinamool chief said, "It is a presidential election, the election to the highest constitutional post. I think it is not wise to waste votes by abstaining. What we decide, was in greater interest and at the cost of ourselves."
She said that there was a division in UPA as also in the NDA, besides in the Left parties over the presidential election.
Banerjee also took a swipe at state Congress leaders. "I have been noting for last few days that some state Congress leaders, who are friends of the CPI-M have been attacking us. They are not the true Congress. They are the true friends of CPI-M."