New Delhi: The race for the President's post is getting more complicated every minute with many new names being proposed by different political parties. It now seems that the Congress is strategising to checkmate the Mamata Banerjee-Mulayam Singh Yadav duo by going in for Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's candidature for the President's post.
Sources say Congress President Sonia Gandhi is reluctant to let go of Pranab and took his name as the Presidential candidate as she didn't want to be seen as opposing him. But after being snubbed by Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, the Congress plans to dig their heels in and plan to checkmate the duo.
Sources say the Congress is confident of a consensus on Pranab. The Congress sources also said that the Samajwadi Party had agreed on Pranab earlier and efforts were now on to convince its leadership. It seems that the Samajwadi Party is also open for talks with the Congress.
Speaking to CNN-IBN Samajwadi Party leader Mohan Singh said, "UPA leaders never spoke to us or discussed names with us. They lost the opportunity then. Time hasn't been lost yet. The Trinamool and SP know well that they can't have a candidate in the Rashtrapati Bhawan. We can't go with the NDA either. Even now if the UPA talks to us, we can reach a ground."
However, Congress sources also said that the 'dark horse' cannot be ruled out yet.
Rejecting Sonia's choices for the Presidential candidate - Pranab Mukherjee and Hamid Ansari - Mamata and Mulayam proposed three names which included Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former president APJ Abdul Kalam and former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee.
Sources in the Congress say that Kalam cannot be their first choice and that Pranab Mukherjee's name cannot be ruled out yet.
Meanwhile, Pranab Mukherjee and Defence Minister AK Antony met Sonia Gandhi on Thursday morning. A Congress Core Committee meeting is also expected on Thursday evening.
Sonia Gandhi now has the following options:
1) She can announce Pranab as the Congress's candidate, risk Mamata's anger and go in for a contest.
2) The Congress can part ways with Mamata and Mulayam and look for options outside. There can be other potential allies like Mayawati's BSP and the Left Front.
3) Sonia can buy time by calling a UPA meeting after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh returns from Mexico on June 23.
4) Sonia can also look for a compromise candidate outside the five candidates who were named on Wednesday - Pranab Mukherjee, Hamid Ansari, APJ Abdul Kalam, Manmohan Singh and Somnath Chatterjee.