New Delhi: The Congress has finally decided to take the bull by its horns and is working on a strategy to isolate Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on the question of Presidential candidates. Taking a calculated risk of Mamata even walking out of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance and threatening the government's survival, the party is trying to reach out to friendlier political parties to build support for its candidates – Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Vice-President Hamid Ansari.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni lashed out at Mamata saying her move of taking names in the media was unethical. "For a senior responsible leader to walk from serious discussions with UPA chairperson to a press conference and disclose names doesn't make political or ethical sense," Soni said.
She also said that taking the name of a sitting Prime Minister for the President's post was not right. "Such lack of courtesy, not even a discussion with the Prime Minister. This has never happened before," she said.
The Congress is trying to reach out to friendlier political parties to build support for its Presidential candidates.
Congress crisis managers are working on the assumption that while Mamata and to a certain extent Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, who had got together on Wednesday to reject the candidatures of Pranab and Ansari, are itching for mid-term polls in the next 12 months, other parties are not so keen.
There was a sense of betrayal and the Congress felt shell-shocked and out manoeuvred after Mamata gave the details of her meeting with UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi. She also came out with the names of candidates discussed during the meeting and later on Wednesday evening when she along with Mulayam came out with three names – former president APJ Abdul Kalam, former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The name of Manmohan Singh was seen as a stinging indictment of the Central Government by Mamata at a time when the economy growth has nosedived, inflation is a major worry, corruption scandals and policy paralysis have become a millstone around the UPA's neck.
The Congress game plan is to get Mulayam back the UPA candidate and isolate Mamata. The party is also reaching out to its allies and parties like the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Left Front and other parties who are yet to reveal their cards.
With the risk of Mamata walking out very high, the UPA is likely to seek the support of the Left Front and the BSP to bail out the government in case of a trial of strength in the Lok Sabha.