Seeking to keep Mamata Banerjee in good humour ahead of Presidential poll, the Congress on Tuesday said she had not crossed the limit by suggesting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's name for the President's post and played down the threat by the Trinamool Congress to pull out from government.
"Mamata Banerjee is our valued ally and will remain our valued ally," Shakeel Ahmad, All India Congress Committee in-charge of West Bengal, told the media.
Asked whether the Trinamool Congress supremo had crossed the limit in suggesting Dr Singh's name as a Presidential candidate, he said, "She had suggested a few names and I don't think she has crossed the limit."
'Suggesting PM's name was neither unethical nor undemocratic'
"Suggesting the name of the PM a little bit unwelcome for the Congress people but her statement was neither unethical nor undemocratic," Ahmad said.
Congress leaders had been unhappy with Banerjee for going public with the discussions she had with United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi on the Presidential issue.
Banerjee had rejected Pranab Mukherjee and Hamid Ansari -- Gandhi's suggestion as possible presidential nominees -- and had announced Dr Singh, former President A P J Abdul Kalam and former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee as her choice of candidates after talks with SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.
'Mamata has a long history with the Congress'
Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid sought to downplay the threat by Trinamool Congress to withdraw its ministers from the government by saying that Banerjee had her political priorities and the Congress respected them.
"The relation that we share, they (Trinamool) have their own vision about it and they work accordingly. But with the same vision in mind they entered into coalition with us," Khurshid said in New Delhi.
"We respect them and Mamata has a long history with the Congress. She had given a lot of energy to the youth Congress and she has formed her government in Bengal after a long political battle," he said.
"We are coalition partners. She has her priorities keeping in mind the state of Bengal, we respect that. We have our own priorities and we have other allies also and a final decision is taken only after comprehensive discussions," Khurshid said.
Ahmad said the Congress will reach out to Banerjee to seek her support for Mukherjee and was hopeful that Banerjee would support him in the July 19 Presidential elections.
'Will request Mamata to vote for Pranab'
"Now, Kalam is not in the race. Obviously, we will request her to vote for Mukherjee," Ahmad said.
Contending that Banerjee had not made a single statement against Mukherjee since the announcement of his candidature, Ahmad said, "We are hopeful that she will lead West Bengal to vote for Pranab Mukherjee in Presidential elections to ensure enblock support to him in the state."
He said he has advised party workers in West Bengal to exercise restraint. The state unit of the party had demanded that the party snap its ties with Trinamool Congress.
Talk in the Congress circles is that Mukherjee is expected to visit West Bengal on June 22 -- his first to his home state since the announcement of his candidature for the Presidential polls.
It is widely expected that Mukherjee would utilise the opportunity to bring on board the West Bengal chief minister on the issue of Presidential polls.
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