With its preferred candidate A P J Abdul Kalam declining to contest and Pranab Mukherjee having formally begun his campaign for the presidential election,the Trinamool Congress today appeared to rethink its opposition to the UPA nominee suggesting that it could change its position if the finance minister reached out to Mamata Banerjee in the same way as he has approached leaders of other parties.
Sources said Mukherjee spoke to PDP president Mehbooba Mufti today. He had rung up CPM general secretary Prakash Karat in Kerala yesterday,and spoken to CPI leader A B Bardhan two days ago. The Shiv Sena,an NDA constituent,said he had called up its leader Bal Thackeray.
When he can call the Left and other leaders from the opposition,why cant he similarly pick up the phone and speak to Mamata Banerjee? a senior Trinamool minister at the Centre,who did not want to be quoted,told The Indian Express.
Another Trinamool minister said the party had backed Kalam,but his refusal to fight meant they did not have a candidate and they would not support an NDA nominee either.
Earlier in the day,a telephone conversation between Mukherjee and dissident Trinamool MP Kabir Suman led to angry reactions from the Trinamool,but the party seemed to cool down after clarifications were conveyed through back channels that the call had been made at Sumans behest,and had not been aimed at soliciting his vote.
Government managers today said Mukherjee had already referred to Mamata as his sister and had appealed to her to vote for him. They did not rule out the possibility of Mukherjee calling on Mamata when he is in Kolkata on Saturday.
Sources said Mukherjee would officially begin his campaign after filing his nomination on June 28,and would write to the electoral college all MPs and MLAs seeking their support. A team led by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Bansal and including ministers of state V Narayanasamy and Rajiv Shukla and Congress chief whip Girija Vyas has been set up to assist in Mukherjees campaign.
There was talk today that Mukherjee had spoken to disgruntled BJP leader in Karnataka B S Yeddyurappa,but UPA managers denied it. Yeddyurappa refused to confirm it,though he publicly backed Mukherjees candidature saying he was a suitable man.
MIM MP Asaddudin Owaisi called on Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy in jail yesterday and sought support for Pranab,a move that was seen as orchestrated by his campaign managers.
The Left parties will meet tomorrow to finalise their stand. There is a feeling in the CPM that in the absence of both a credible opposition candidate and enough votes to swing the election,the party should vote for Mukherjee; some in the partys West Bengal unit also feel that this would put them on the opposite side of Mamata Banerjee and help widen the gap between the Congress and Trinamool. The Left has a vote value of around 51,000 in the electoral college of 10.98 lakh vote value.
Mukherjees conversation with Kabir Suman,government sources said,followed from the Trinamool MPs efforts to speak with the finance minister over the last two days to congratulate him. Mukherjee found the time to call back today and inquire after his health.
Suman raised the issue of the presidential elections,making a polite inquiry on where he should vote,to which Mukherjee told him that he could do so in Delhi itself, a source said.
Suman himself told reporters that Mukherjee had not solicited his support. Will a person of the stature of Pranab Mukherjee ring me up to seek my vote? He never asked me for my vote. But I want him to be President. He has vision,he is down-to-earth,and the best candidate. I will vote for him, he said.
Earlier in the day,Trinamool spokesperson Derek O Brien had tweeted that attempts to break the party were unethical.