New Delhi: A day after the UPA nominated Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as its presidential candidate, the opposition, NDA, remained divided over backing him in the race to the Rashtrapati Bhawan, even as its leader Ram Jethmalani spoke against the ruling coalition's nominee and threatened to join the fray if his party chose to back the veteran Congressman.
The real drama, however, unfolded in the form of NCP leader P A Sangma and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee. While the former dared his party to expel him for being in the Rashtrapati race, the West Bengal Chief Minister re-launched her fight for former president APJ Abdul Kalam on a completely new turf, Facebook.
Though the top leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) met to discuss their presidential candidate, they did not come up with any name. Addressing the media after the meeting, BJP spokesperson Ananth Kumar said that a decision would be taken by them after a meeting of the NDA allies at the residence of senior leader L K Advani at 11 am on Sunday.
BJP leader Ram Jethmalani joined the stage saying he would contest the presidential poll if his party chose to back Pranab.
"We had a detailed discussion on the presidential elections. Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj and L K Advani had discussions with other leaders of the NDA as well," said the BJP spokesperson.
He further said, "The NDA meeting is at 11 tomorrow. The discussions are still on and the final decision will be taken then."
However, in a twist, BJP leader and senior Supreme Court lawyer Ram Jethmalani rejected the candidature of Pranab Mukherjee, calling him unfit for the post of the President.
Jethmalani went on to say that if his party decides to back Pranab in the race, he would file his nomination and contest the presidential elections.
He said, "Pranab is not fit to be the President of India. He did not handle the black money issue properly…I am waiting for my party's response, if they back Pranab, then I will file my nomination."
Meanwhile, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) said that its leader P A Sangma would abide by the party decision, suggesting that the former Lok Sabha speaker would back out of the presidential race.
NCP leader D P Tripathy said, "I met Sangma and he has said he will abide by the party decision."
But just minutes after the statement from Tripathy, sources close to Sangma reiterated that he had not taken any decision to back out and was awaiting an official reaction from the AIADMK and the DMK on their support to the North East strongman.
Notably, the former speaker went on to dare his party asking them to expel him if they so wished. This came even as the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) reiterated its support to Sangma in the race.
But amidst the rounds of speculations, threats and meetings in the national capital, the cornered lady from the West Bengal, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, hit back with a bang as she launched her official Facebook page.
The West Bengal Chief Minister posted a long message in support of her favourite in the Raisina Hills race, former President APJ Abdul Kalam, urging everyone to come forward and extend support to him.
In her first post, she kept the lining simple while making an emotional appeal to all the users to support 'missile man' Kalam in their own ways.
Recalling Tagore's famous lines 'Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high' in her first posting she said, "I am a humble, transparent, common person like the vast majority of you".
The Trinamool Congress chief wrote in her first post on Facebook, "I gave voice to what millions of Indians want to see in a President". She claimed there was already a good response to the post on the social network.
Having ditched by Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, it was Mamata's way of reaching out to the people and seeking support for her preferred candidate.
But the seasoned politician from Uttar Pradesh on Saturday admitted to secret meetings with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to discuss the candidates for the President's post.
In an exclusive interview to Teekhi Baat on IBN7, Mulayam claimed that he was the first political leader to propose the name of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee for the President almost one month ago during a meeting with Sonia and added that no deal was struck with the Congress in lieu of supporting its presidential nominee.
Though there seems a broad consensus on the name of Pranab Mukherjee in the presidential race, a contest cannot be ruled out with the NDA remaining undecided and P A Sangma being defiant. As far as APJ Abdul Kalam is concerned, he is still unlikely to enter the fray, given the lack of consensus on his name. Probably, the scene will get clear following the meeting of the NDA allies on Sunday, and even clearer on June 21, when the Left Front meets to take its final call.