Efforts to bring about a rapprochement between the the Congress and its angry ally Trinamool Congress over the election of the President suffered a setback on Wednesday after Pranab Mukherjee,the Congress nominee for the top job,spoke to rebel TMC MP Kabir Suman,apparently to enquire about his health. A enraged TMC reacted strongly,accusing the union finance minister of trying to split Trinamool over the presidential vote and said he would not succeed.
Sources in both parties said that mediators had been at work to arrange for a one-on-one meeting between Mukherjee and Mamata Banerjee when the former is due to visit West Bengal on Friday. Over the last two days,the Congress high command was going easy on Banerjee and also urging the state unit of the party to exercise restraint and not speak out against Trinamool,and especially Banerjee. But those gestures didnt seem to work,with Banerjee appearing uncompromising. With such efforts not making much progress,Mukherjee was forced to resort to other tactics,the sources said.
Suman,the TMC MP from Jadavpur,said Mukherjee called him to enquire about his health and never for once asked him for his vote in the Presidents election. Suman,a singer-turned-MP,has been critical of Banerjee in the past saying she had changed after becoming chief minister and that she was going the Left way. He has been unwell for some time and was due to undergo surgery.
Suman,who seemed overwhelmed by Mukherjees phone call,later said that Mukherjee is the best presidential candidate in the race. He rated Mukherjee above former president A P J Abdul Kalam and added that Kalam
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Trinamool fears split as Pranab calls rebel MP Suman to enquire health had already been President. Pranabbabu was an exceptional parliamentarian and the country needed his sagacity and composure at this juncture of extreme instability, Suman said.
But the TMC top leadership obviously did not agree with him. Subrata Mukherjee,one of the most senior ministers in Banerjees cabinet,described Pranab Mukherjees call to Suman as an attempt to split the party.
It is totally unethical. Pranab Mukherjee should have called Mamata Banerjee and it should have been a party to party approach instead of him dialing Suman. The two are of the same mettle, Subrata Mukherjee said. Asked if the party would take any action,he said: Our party leader will decide but we fully condemn such a blatant attempt to split our party.
Other TMC leaders said Pranab Mukherjee,as expected,was cautious enough not to raise the Presidents election with Suman. But at the same time,the phone call at this juncture delivered the message he wanted to,they said. Suman himself told local television channels that he asked Mukherjee how he could vote and the presidential poll procedure. Mukherjee,he said,explained the process and told him that he could vote either in the state assembly or in the Lok Sabha.
That explanation did not seem to mollify TMC leaders either,with another party MP,Derek OBrien,expressing his outrage over Twitter. Pranab M directly called up a TMC MP seeking support. Politically ethical to do ? Or trying to break TMC ? Try and try again. Wont break, said one tweet. Lots of breaking news on President poll. But he who is trying to Break TMC can try another 1000 times..Your time starts now, said another.