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'Mamata was emotive, Mulayam was tactical'

Last updated on: June 27, 2012 12:50 IST

Jayanta Ghosal of the Anand Bazar Patrika Group made an exclusive appearance on Rediff chat where he fielded wide-ranging questions about the upcoming Presidential poll. Here's the transcript of the chat.

Champak asked: Don't you think president from congress will dance on the tune of congress only?

Jayanata Ghosal: Pranab Mukherjee will be a textbook president. As i know him for last 30 years he will be a non-conformist president. In Parliament he, always, tried to be a good parliamentarian than Congressman. During UPA 1 he gave clean chit to George Fernandes in the case of Tehelka.

There were many Congress leaders who were not happy with it. Like, Arjun Singh. He once told me what Indira Gandhi advised him that during the election you may raise many issues favouring your party but when you are administrating the country you work for masses and not the party.

jpshah asked: what is the chances of pranab to win prez election?
Jayanata GhosalL Dear Mr.Shah, Pranab Mukherjee will come out with flying colours! He has numbers on his side. Major chunk of votes of the Left parties he will be getting. Janta dal-U and Shiv Sena from the NDA will be voting for him. Several small parties, almost dozen of them, are with Pranad da.

GaneshNadar: if Kalam had stood for elections would he have won?
Jayanta Ghosal: Dear Ganesh, it's a very good question. I think if Dr Kalam had stood for election the scene of prez election would have been different. Dr Kalam is a very popular personality. He is the best seller. He attracts children. Youth finds him attractive. In fact, Congress leaders told me that if Dr Kalam will join the presidential race then it would have been a major fight. JD-U and Shiv sena would have found it difficult to deny Dr.Kalam their votes. Even Mulayam Singh Yadav would have found himself in a fix if Dr.Kalam would have gone ahead to stand in contest.

Dr Kalam was his choice in last time. Already, Nitish Kumar had announced his support for Dr Kalam this time. I saw shy of relief in Congress circle when Dr.Kalam issued the statement that he is not inclined to contest.

bharatpremi asked: TMC shall support Pranab or abstain?
Jayanta Ghosal: Dear Bharatpremi, I think TMC will abstain. I will explain the reasons behind it. 1- Possibility of cross-voting is high this time. Dinesh Trivedi, Somen Mitra and Kabir Suman have, already told Pranab babu that if the voting takes place they would vote for him. If, TMC abstains then the rebels will be exposed. 2- P.A.Sangma, the challenger and the non-Congress presidential candidate is supported by the BJP. So, for Mamta it will be difficult to support Sangma. Congress would start campaign against Mamta that BJP and TMC are hand-in-glove.

Remember, in West Bengal muslim votes are 27 per cent. Mamta has burnt her fingers once. Today, she does not want to take the risk. 3- The Bengali identity of Pranab da is there.CPI-M is using the Bengali chauvinism for the dhoti-clad bhadralok Bengali babu. Leftists are trying to create the euphoria. Add to this Ahmed Patel, Congress leader, is still in touch with Mamta. Pranab da is, also, planning to meet Mamata.

Once he resigns and starts his campaign after 28 June he will visit Kolkatta as a candidate and will meet all the leaders and legislatures. He is keen to meet Mamta. As we know Sangma has asked for audience with Mamta. She has assured that she will meet him. If Mamta meets Sangma then i am sure she will meet Pranab babu , too.

munim asked: Hi Jayanta Sir, What is mood of the Bangali common people of WB against Mamta Banerjee's arrogance? will it effect her in future politics?
Jayanta Ghosal: Dear Munim, Bengalis will be happy to see a first Bengali president on Raiseena Hills. But, don't forget that Mamata Banerji is, still, tremendously popular mass leader of West Bangal. Few days back there was a by-election and TMC has defeated CPI-M. Pranab babu, may be a Chanakya but he  also accepts that Mamata is more popular than him.

Once, Pranab babu told me that in his life he only made one mistake of launching a new party when Rajiv Gandhi expelled him. Pranab babu formed a new party called Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress.

His deposit was even lost in the election. He saw that how Mamta succeeded and today she is chief minister after breaking away from Congress. Actually, it is case of ego conflict between two Bong leaders.

But, in future i think Mamta does not want to leave UPA only on issue of presidential eleciton of Pranab babu. Mamta will try to bargain but will remain within UPA. The Congress wants SP and TMC, both. It helps them neutralise each other. I think TMC will remain with UPA.

Jagan asked: Pranab Da not able to control the inflation and allowed the prices of essential commodities to reach the sky! This is the reason he has opted to become President?
Jayanta Ghosal answers: Whether Pranab da was a good FM or not is the matter of debate. One school of thought says he has the public sector mind set. Montek Singh Ahluwalia to Kaushik Basu ,always, differed with Pranab da. Pranab babu is a cold war day's warrior. he was FM when Soviet Russia was a big power. he follows the Nehruvian socialism believed in Garibi Hatao politics.

Today, another school of thought says India needs fast reforms. India has to abolish subsidies culture. My belief is that individual is not important. Read Congress's economic resolution. Are they supporting Manmohan Singh's economics? They are not. Why blame Pranab babu? He is following party line.

nikhil asked: why mulayam played the game with Mamata?
Jayanta Ghosal: Dear Nikhil, This is typical MSY politics. Mamta was unaware of this kind of Mulayam's ways of politics. I am sure that Mulayam wanted Pranab babu as president. MSY told a Congressman that if he would not have gone public with Mamta on 13, June Sonia Gandhi would not have selected Pranab babu.

When Ahmed Patel and V.Narayanswami met Pranab babu on night of 13 June he asked both leaders that why did Sonia Gandhi suggested only one name of Pratibha Patil as Congress candidate, why was Manmohan Singh was her only choice and why is she , now, giving two names to Mamta as her choice for post of president?

He was hurt and sarcastic. That night changed the scenario in favour of Pranab.

Gjkgautam: Fundamentally, do you envisage major difference in the style of functioning between Mr. Pranab Mukherjee and Mrs. Pratibha Patil? Will Mr Mukherjee will discharge with fairness and regard to the constitution or simply he will display his unflinching loyalty to Congress Party or any group in the party?
Jayanta Ghosal: There is a sharp difference between times during 50s and 60s and now in 21 century. While remaining within the boundaries of constitution President can play pro-active role. President does play role in global diplomacy. President can advise privately to cabinet when issues crop up.

President's wisdom can be absorbed by the government. PM regularly meets and briefs president.Pratibha Patil was known as Sonia Gandhi's loyalist before she become president but Pranab babu is known as Congress's old guard and not as a loyalist.

noman asked: congress playing a big political trick before 2014 election to appoint his own president, as it is sure that they are going to lose 2014 elections...
Jayanta Ghosal: My own thinking is that media is overestimating president's role after the election. I think, Indian masses will decide who will rule the country and not president of India. Congressman Shanker Dayal Sharma extended invitation to the Vajapyee government. Then president Narayanan could not help install Congress government.

FromSaudi asked:
If BJP knows it will lose president election, why is it contesting? At least it can save face by supporting Pranab rather than having defeat at the hand of Congress.
Jayanta Ghosal: BJP is not fighting president election. For them it is a dress rehearsal for 2014. It is a symbolic fight for them. They have not put up their own candidate so they are not at risk of losing anything.

They are supporting Sangma who was a founder member of NCP. Its an embarrassment for UPA. Naveen Patnaik and Jailalitha are supporting Sangma so BJP is ,also, in same grouping. BJP is trying to attract these two leaders back in NDA fold.

Mamta is at some distance from UPA, right now. BJP's stand changed when they saw bold political stand of Mamta against Pranab. BJP tried to take advantage of it.

AMIT asked: Congress playing safe game for Rahul Gandhi
Jayanta Ghosal: Dear Amit, Rahul met Pranab babu yesterday Dada shared his wisdom with him. He wants to be Chandragupta Maurya of India so he took lessons from Chanakya! He went to take future road map from Paranab da. Dada suggested to take a middle path reforms and he asked Rahul to opt for political populaism and balance it with centerist economic approach.

Ramdas asked: Did Mamate Banerjee help Pranab Mukherjee in a way that she forced the hand of the Congress to declare him as the UPA candidate?
Jayanta Ghosal: Dear Ramdas, I agree. This is politics. Mulayam planned and trapped Mamta who was rebelling against Pranab.But, Mamta's opposition consolidated Congress behind Pranab. Mamata was emotive, Mulayam was tactical. In my perception Pranab babu was not a natural choice of Sonia Gandhi. If her choice was Pranab da only then why would she give two names to Mamta?

Arun asked: If pranab wins this, how will it affect leadership dynamics in congress particularly keeping in mind 2014 is not too far?
Jayanta Ghosal: Dear Arun, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is likely to keep Finance portfolio with him sometime. With help of Montek Singh and Kaushik Basu he will like to do some reforms like FDI in retail and pension. There will be a cabinet reshuffle soon.

Sonia Gandhi wants to revamp Congress media cell to start campaign for UPA. there is a rat race to become Leader of Lok Sabha. It is possible that they would revamp Congress party, too. Let us see who will be designated number two...Antony or Chidambaram?

Jayanta Ghosal:  Friends, I enjoyed talking to you. Through your questions i have understood the thought process of readers. I think presidential election has become more political event this time. The miracle took place in 1969 election. I was reading the Pupul Jaikar's biography. She says when the election results were being announced of Neelam Sanjeeva reddy versus V V Giri she met Indira Gandhi.She was eating omelet. Reddy was ahead and Jaikar was tense but Mrs.Gandhi was listening to Beethoven. She remained unmoved. Eventually results were announced. Giri won the race! This time, Sangma dreams for miracle but i don't think such miracle will happen. But, this time, too, battle is political.