After UPA allies Mamata Banerjee and Mulayam Singh Yadav rejected the Congress’ choice for President and named their own,UPA leaders went into a huddle from Thursday morning trying to figure out the next move. Here is a wrap of what has been happening since morning.
* The day breaks in complete silence from the Congress.
* Top Congress leaders Pranab Mukherjee,P Chidambaram and A K Antony then make their way mid-morning to Sonia Gandhi’s 10,Janpath residence for a strategy meeting. They leave without talking to the media. Pranab Mukherjee holds up his folded hands.
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* DMK leader T R Balu brings a missive from his chief Karunanidhi to Sonia Gandhi. Karunanidhi had said yesterday he would make his choice for President clear after the Mamata,Mulayam dust has settled. It is understood Balu conveyed the name to Sonia today. After the meeting,Baalu says Sonia Gandhi would announce the name of UPA’s Presidential candidate anytime later this week.
* Congress top brass,including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party chief Sonia Gandhi,decide to meet this evening to strategise a response. The meeting will be the first formal deliberation of top Congress leaders after the Mamata,Mulayam bombshell. Mukherjee,who is Congress’ choice for President,will be present at the core group meeting.
* Though some Congress sources ruled out the possibility of Singh participating in the Presidential race,there is no official response from the party to the manner in which SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and TMC leader Mamata Banerjee mentioned his name.
* Lalu Prasad Yadav makes noises that he would support the UPA’s choice.
* NDA ally JD(U) says they would make their stand clear only after the UPA has come out with a candidate. JD(U) spokesperson Shivanand Tiwari says: ”Let Sonia Gandhi formally announce a name then they will decide on the name.” Sources in the party feel the choice of APJ Abdul Kalam in the race is “unusual”. They say this is the first time that the name of a former President has come up.
* After teaming up with Mulayam Singh,Mamata decides she will not meet Prime minister Manmohan Singh. Banerjee,who sprang a surprise by proposing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s name for the President’s post yesterday,was scheduled to take a flight to Kolkata this afternoon but her close aides say she will not leaving the Capital today. Trinamool sources said the Prime Minister had invited Banerjee for a meeting yesterday but it did not take place as the schedule was not finalised.
* Congress says shortly before noon that the party cannot spare Manmohan Singh for President. ”He will continue till 2014.” Congress rejects the two other names of APJ Abdul Kalam and Somnath Chatterjee. Party spokesperson Janardhan Dwivedi says: ”We cannot afford to spare Manmohan Singh as our Prime Minister. We do not accept the two other names of APJ Abdul Kalam and Somnath Chatterjee.” Dwivedi also made it clear that it was upset with Mamata for letting out names and suggesting fresh ones.
* Mulayam Singh Yadav cancels plans to go back to Lucknow. Stays put in Capital after Congress rejects his choice.
* The Congress is expected to come out with the name of the UPA candidate either today or tomorrow. Top party sources say the announcement may come after the Congress core group meeting this evening.
* CPI(M) says proposal to make Prime Minister Manmohan Singh a candidate for Presidential poll is “unprecedented”. CPI(M) Politburo member Brinda Karat says this shows ”utter lack of any principles which ties this coalition. It is for the UPA leadership to respond to this”.
* In another dramatic twist,Samajwadi Party hints it is open to compromise on Presidential candidate. Partyman Mohan Singh says it cannot go with BJP-led NDA. “Time has yet not been lost. If talks take place even now,Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mamata Banerjee can be persuaded,” he says. Mohan Singh says SP never had a name for the Presidential candidate and wanted to have an “open discussion” with UPA.
* Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee says the UPA,led by Congress,will announce the name of its candidate shortly. “Congress and UPA will have to set up a Presidential candidate. Who will be the Presidential candidate? That will be decided shortly,” he tells reporters after a Cabinet meeting.
* L K Advani meets Jayalalithaa to discuss fresh developments in the run-up to the Presidential election. The agree to “coordinate” with each other on their strategy. “We discussed the presidential election at length… the prospects and possibilities. The NDA is meeting (in Delhi) tomorrow to discuss the situation as it is till now,” he said. Advani indicates the NDA may decide tomorrow to wait till the UPA declares its presidential candidate and then announce its strategy.
* Congress blames Mamata Banerjee for the political mess over the Presidential candidate choice in an apparent bid to drive a wedge between her Trinamool Congress and Mulyam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party. “You must have noticed that the initiative to present alternative names came from Banerjee and not Yadav,” a senior Congress leader said.
* Trinamool reacts,says if Congress names Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee or Vice President Hamid Ansari as its Presidential candidate,it would “contest” the election with A P J Abdul Kalam as its nominee. The party claimed its leader Mamata Banerjee had not breached any trust by disclosing names of Mukherjee and Ansari after the meeting with Sonia Gandhi yesterday. The party says Mamata revealed names with the “permission” of the Congress chief.
* The Left parties will decide their stand on the presidential poll issue only after the UPA formally announces its candidate. “Left parties are ready. As soon as they declare the name of the candidate (for the Presidential poll),the four parties (CPI(M),CPI,RSP and Forward Bloc) will hold a meeting and decide their stand,” CPI(M) Politburo member and Left Front chairman Biman Bose told reporters here.
* Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee,whose name has been reported to be Congress’ first choice as candidate,telephones former West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
* NCP leader Sharad Pawar meets Sonia Gandhi and assures her of his support to any candidate that the UPA puts forth.
* BJP vice president and Rajya Sabha member Shanta Kumar calls for a unanimous election of the next President. He says the President should be an “apolitical and highly competent” person. In the complex Presidential race,the most apposite (appropriate) and most competent candidate should be elected as the next President,Kumar tells media.
* A P J Abdul Kalam has decided to adopt a wait and watch approach on the issue which has generated a lot of political heat. In a statement here,he said as a key ally of the NDA,the SAD is committed to toe the alliance line. SAD patron says the NDA has convened a meeting tomorrow at New Delhi to finalise the name of the candidate for President.
* In Kolkata,West Bengal Congress says it would discuss pulling out of the TC-led government in the state. “I don’t find any reason to remain in the ministry. But my decision is not final. We will discuss among ourselves at the state-level and seek concurrence of the high command,” state Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya tells PTI.
* CPI favours a Dalit woman as the next President of India,but did not spell
out any name for the top Constitutional post. Top CPI leader A B Bardhan said Congress or UPA have not spoken with the Left parties or come out with any name for the Presidential elections.
* As new names cropped up in the Presidential race,CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat and top CPI leader A B Bardhan hold discussions about the
emerging political scenario. Karat meets Bardhan at the CPI office and discusses the
recent developments with regard to the Presidential polls,sources in the Left parties said.
* Unfazed by Congress’ rejection of her three candidates,Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee says former President A P J Abdul Kalam is her nominee for the Presidential poll. “We are for Kalam,” Banerjee tells PTI when asked whether she would support Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee or Vice President Hamid Ansari,believed to be the two first and the second choices of the Congress. Her party MP Kunal Ghosh went a step further,saying if Congress fields Mukherjee or Ansari,Trinamool would “contest” the election with Kalam as its nominee.
* A defiant Mamata Banerjee says the ball is in the Congress’ court if it wants her out of the UPA coalition. ”I do not want to topple the government. I am still with the UPA. But if the Congress wants me out,the ball is in their court,” Banerjee said. Banerjee also said if the UPA does not endorse her candidate for the President,APJ Abdul Kalam,she would go her own way. The Trinamool Congress maintains it did not breach trust by disclosing the names of Mukherjee and Ansari after Mamata’s meet with Sonia Gandhi yesterday. Leaders said it was done with Sonia Gandhi’s “consent” and “permission”.
* After a meeting with Mulayam Singh in the evening — the second in 24 hours — Mamata Banerjee said,”Kalam is our candidate.” This means the Mamata-Mulayam camp is sticking to their own candidate and is not yielding to pressure by the Congress. Later at her residence,Mamata said,”Kalam is a winning candidate.”