New Delhi: In a political googly, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh on Wednesday proposed three new names for President: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and former president APJ Abdul Kalam.
While Kalam and Chatterjee were expected choices, suggesting Singh's name appears to be a direct challenge to the Congress. It remains to be seen how the Congress responds to these suggestions. What is clear is that the political game over the choice of President has clearly become more complex.
The Trinamool Congress and the Samajwadi Party, both crucial regional players, with these nominations indicated that they are aligned on the Presidential election issue.
Banerjee appealed to all to think about the names proposed by her and Mulayam unanimously and decide. "Presidential candidate should be chosen by consensus. There is no priority. There are no priorities in these names, let the political parties decide," added Banerjee.
"UPA will have to work on consensus candidate in light of TMC-SP proposing PM as one of their choices for President," said NCP chief Sharad Pawar.
Proposing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's name seems just like a diversionary tactic by Banerjee and Mulayam at the moment and will the Congress reject all three names proposed by them is to be seen now.
Reacting to the latest move by both Banerjee and Mulayam, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took a dig at the UPA saying, "There is no coalition in the coalition government."
Following her meeting with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Mamata earlier in the day said that the first choice of the Congress for the post of the president is Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. Banerjee said, "Sonia told me that the first choice of the Congress for President is Pranab Mukherjee."
The West Bengal Chief Minister added that the second choice of the Congress is Vice-President Hamid Ansari.
However, Banerjee said that she told the Congress president that she cannot comment on the UPA's choice at the moment.
This came just hours after reports suggested that Banerjee was likely to veto the candidature of Pranab Mukherjee for the presidential poll.
So long as Banerjee and Sonia could have discussed the issue in private, negotiations may have been possible. But now that Sonia's choices have been made public by the Trinamool Congress chief, she may find it practically impossible to go back on the names.
Meanwhile, the CPI has said that both Mukherjee as well as Ansari are unacceptable to the party as President. Key UPA ally NCP has, however, said they are okay with both the candidates. Other allies such as DMK and RLD have already indicated their support for Pranab.