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‘No to Pranab linked to debt relief’

After Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee publicly rejected Congress party’s “first choice” of presidential nominee — Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee — her party leaders defended it saying the Congress veteran from Bengal was not helping the state by acceding to the CM’s demand of a three-year moratorium on payment of interest on Rs 2.26 lakh crore Central loans.

Written by Express News Service | Kolkata | Published: June 14, 2012 5:55:36 am

After Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee publicly rejected Congress party’s “first choice” of presidential nominee — Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee — her party leaders defended it saying the Congress veteran from Bengal was not helping the state by acceding to the CM’s demand of a three-year moratorium on payment of interest on Rs 2.26 lakh crore Central loans.

“Pranab is not going to be her (Mamata) choice for obvious reason. He has yet not responded to the state government’s persistent demand for a moratorium on Bengal’s debt interest. If she accepts Pranab’s candidature,it will mean that she has backed out from her demands. In the present situation,she will not give up the fight. Because she has to run the government and running government under such liquidity crisis is impossible,” said a minister in Mamata’s cabinet on condition of anonymity.

“There is speculation that the Centre,citing constitutional obligation,will not give moratorium,and instead it will try to aide the Bengal government by providing some funds in the form of Backward Region Grant Fund to convince Mamata. But she is not expected to accept the formula,” the minister,considered close to Mamata,added.

However,this was in contradiction to the public posturing of Mamata who today told reporters in Delhi that the state government’s demand for a moratorium on interest payment was not a bargaining chip to her party’s support to the UPA nominee in the Presidential polls.

“No,no,no. Support (to UPA in Presidential polls) is not linked to financial package to the state. Both are two different things. Whenever I come to Delhi,these kind of rumours and gossips are planted by some quarters. These are plantations. Plantations not of trees but plantation of rumours,” she told mediapersons after meeting Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Trinamool leaders said that by propping up senior Marxist and former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee’s name as one of her choices for the presidential post,Mamata has countered the allegations that she does not want a Bengali to hold the country’s highest constitutional post.

“Not only that Somnath is a Bengali,he had opposed the CPM for which he was expelled from the party,” the senior minister said.

However,what has befuddled even Mamata’s partymen was her taking the name of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the nominee for President. “There must be some equations playing in her mind,” the minister added.

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