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Congress may not have a cakewalk in Prez election

June 12, 2012 01:12 IST

With the Congress unwilling to reveal its cards till   consultations with all allied and supporting parties are completed and the notification for the Presidential election is issued by the Election Commission, it is learnt that the going is not as easy for the party as is being made out.

With the ruling party having to depend on outside numbers, Congress president Sonia Gandhi is not in a position to take a blank cheque from allies or to push through whatever nominee she may have in mind.

Many leaders are asking, "Has the Congress president been left with little option but to make (Finance Minister) Pranab Mukherjee the next President of India?"

Highly placed sources in the Congress say that the situation is very tight for both the party and the government since there is a real possibility that the official party candidate may not make it past the winning post in the event Sonia Gandhi decides to bring in a "rubber stamp" as her Presidential nominee.

A senior Congress leader discloses that there are two main problems which can affect the outcome of the Presidential election, and in turn can destabilise the government at the Centre.

Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, who has become critical in bringing together the numbers, informed members of the SP parliamentary board on Monday that the his party would decide its support to the Congress candidate only after knowing who the nominee is.

He said they are willing to accept Pranab Mukherjee -- if that is the Congress choice -- but they are not willing to accept a 'rubber stamp' nominee if that is Sonia Gandhi's choice. He added in that event the Samajwadi Party would be open to take its own decision on the issue.

Mulayam Singh has already ruled out supporting a "bureaucrat" like Vice President Hamid Ansari.

In the meanwhile, Meira Kumar is also lobbying hard for the post, but the Congress is not inclined to have a new Lok Sabha speaker elected nor does it think it is in a position to win an election from Meira Kumar's Bihar Lok Sabha seat.

Secondly, the Congress also has information that in the event that a party nominee other than Pranab Mukherjee is selected, regional parties can gang up and push through a strong candidate -- they would then dump P A Sangma -- and this would lead to a major clash with a very real possibility that the official Congress nominee can be defeated.

The defeat of the Congress nominee would sound the death knell for the Manmohan Singh government. Congress sources say there is no reason why the party leadership should take such a big risk and destabilise its own government at the Centre.

Sonia Gandhi's stock is already falling within the Congress with the party's MLC candidate in Karnataka having suffered a defeat. The party had three clear seats and the fourth had a shortfall. But what happened was that 4th candidate who had a shortfall of votes won, while the 1st candidate who had clear number of votes allotted to him lost. This is being seen as the handiwork of the CLP leader Seetharamiah who had submitted his resignation at the selection of candidates and threatened to leave the party. He had wanted former minister C M Ibrahim for the MLC post and said he was not consulted in the selection of candidates.

On Tuesday the Congress is also set to face a big blow the by elections to 18 assembly seats in Andhra Pradesh with the party expected to lose in all of them and jailed YSR Congress chief Jagan Reddy likely to make big gains. 

Sources also say that DMK leader M K Stalin has told Congress leaders that their party wants Pranab Mukherjee as President and that the Congress should work overtime to get Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on board over the issue.

Nobody is willing to put any money on which way the West Bengal chief minister would go, but as of now the Congress calculations are minus Mamata with Pranab Mukherjee refusing to give West Bengal a special financial package. He has made it clear that whatever is given would only be by the rules and nothing beyond that.

With the notification for the Presidential election expected this week, sources say any decision would only be made after the return of the prime minister from his foreign trip on June 23.

Dr Singh is headed for Mexico and Brazil and will leave on June 16. It is also learnt that the Congress leadership is mulling over the idea of convening a UPA meeting which would be attended by DMK leader Karunanidhi.

This makes it evident that the wind is sailing in Pranab da's direction since almost all the allies and supporting parties minus Mamata are in favour of him as UPA's first choice for the post of President. Sources say that some of the NDA allies have also hinted that if it is Pranab Mukherjee, they would be willing to support him for the top job.

Renu Mittal in New Delhi