Well-scripted play or coalition nightmare? Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mamata Banerjee have provided a twist in the tale – they have rejected the name of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as President and have forwarded instead the name of Dr Manmohan Singh among others, suggesting a loss of faith in the Prime Minister.
Ms Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress is the UPA’s biggest ally; also the most troublesome and who has the ruling party being eyeing as a possible replacement within the UPA, but Mr Yadav’s Samajwadi Party.
The two leaders met this evening ostensibly to discuss what Ms Banerjee said were the Congress’ two preferred candidates for the next President of India – Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Vice-President Hamdi Ansari. And threw up three more names for consideration. In no particular order of preference, they said, former President APJ Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former Lok Sabha Speaker and Left leader Somnath Chatterjee.
Flashback to an hour ago. When Ms Banerjee emerged from a meeting with Sonia Gandhi to say that the Congress President had, after consultations with allies, put before her two names – Mr Mukherjee’s and that of Vice-President Hamid Ansari as second choice.
Ms Banerjee was non-committal on who she would back and drove straight to Mr Yadav’s house to discuss the matter. Both leaders had earlier said that they would reveal their hand only after discussions with each other. Sources close to Ms Banerjee said that though she was not keen on Mr Mukherjee becoming President, she would find it difficult to block a Bengali from becoming President; she has balanced that by proposing Somnath Chatterjee’s name.
Other allies of the Congress like M Karunanidhi, Sharad Pawar and Ajit Singh have said they want a strong President and see Mr Mukherjee in that role. DMK sources said this evening too that the party preferred Mr Mukherjee as the next President.
Opposition parties too have indicated that they might well not contest the candidacy of Mr Mukherjee.
This is how the numbers stack up if there is a contest for the Presidential elections:
If the Trinamool Congress (4.37% votes), Samajwadi Party (6%) and Mayawati’s BSP (4%) support the UPA, the ruling combine will get 5,71,644 votes in its kitty. That will ensure that the UPA will have 52 per cent, a majority, of the overall votes. But if Ms Banerjee decides to go against the UPA candidate, UPA’s vote share will drop to 5,25,719 votes at 48 per cent, shy of a majority.
The presidential election places at par the votes of all MPs with those of all elected members of state legislatures – so regional parties count for a lot. The electoral college for the presidential poll is 4896, constituting 776 Members of Parliament and 4120 Members of Legislative Assemblies, including those of Delhi and Puducherry. The total value of votes is 10,98,882 with that of MLAs being 5,49,474 and that of MPs being 5,49,408. Nominated members of Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and state Assemblies are not entitled to vote.