New Delhi: The Congress seems to be on the verge of crossing its last hurdle on selecting Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as the Presidential candidate. Sources close to Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee have indicated that she is not against Pranab's candidature for the President's post.
Mamata Banerjee left for Delhi on Tuesday and will meet UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday to discuss the Presidential elections. Mamata has postponed a meeting of the Rajya Sabha MPs, which she had scheduled for Wednesday in Kolkata. Mamata said she is coming to Delhi after Sonia called her over the phone for discussions.
When asked about the Presidential candidate, Mamata said that the Congress will decide the candidate. "I cannot say anything now. It is the Congress's matter, let them name the candidate. I have some acquaintances in Delhi like Mulayam Singh Yadav whom I will meet. The meeting with Sonia Gandhi has been fixed for tomorrow evening," Mamata said.
It seems that Mamata has changed her stance on the Presidential candidate. Last month, in an interview with CNN-IBN Deputy Editor Sagarika Ghose, Mamata had refused to directly endorse Pranab Mukherjee as the President.
Sources said she is coming to Delhi after Sonia reportedly called her over phone for discussions.
The Congress President, who has been authorised by the party's working committee to finalise the candidate for the president's post, is engaged in consultations with allies on evolving a consensus nominee.
She has already held discussions with DMK chief Karunanidhi, NCP leader Sharad Pawar and RLD chief Ajit Singh on the presidential candidate.
The Trinamool Congress is seeking a financial package from the Centre but the Congress has dismissed any possibility of a quid pro quo between any help to states and the Presidential poll.
The Trinamool Congress had on Monday deputed West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra for talks with Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, widely speculated to be UPA's Presidential candidate, over the package issue but the discussions remained inconclusive.
Mamata had said on Monday that she was yet to know the outcome of the meeting between Mukherjee and Mitra on the package, which is seen as her bargaining chip for support to UPA nominee.
The Congress is yet to make an announcement on its Presidential candidate. Sources say that even as Pranab Mukherjee emerges as the frontrunner, the Congress is waiting till the last moment before making any official announcements. Pranab Mukherjee has even cancelled a trip to Kabul later this week.
If Pranab Mukherjee becomes the Congress's Presidential candidate, there are many questions that will need to be answered as to who will replace him as he leads various groups of ministers and is also the Leader of the Lok Sabha.
As for the Finance Ministry, there is a possibility that the Prime Minister may want to bring in new faces and may even want to keep the ministry with himself.
Earlier, the Congress in West Bengal had appealed to the Trinamool on Sunday to back Pranab Mukherjee as the President. Congress leader and minister in West Bengal Manas Bhuniya had appealed to Mamata Banerjee to support Pranab if the High Command makes him the candidate.
(With additional information from PTI)