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SP-TMC front makes it harder for Cong to play one against the other

Mulayam Singh was seen by the party as the counter to Mamata Banerjee — just in case

Written by Ravish Tiwari | New Delhi | Published: June 14, 2012 2:56:45 am

Until days ago,the Congress was rolling out the red carpet for him,thrusting the UPA’s report card into his hands for a photo-op. Mulayam Singh Yadav (with 22 MPs) was seen by the party as the counter to Mamata Banerjee (19 MPs) — just in case.

So there was shock and disbelief in large sections of the Congress when Mulayam and Mamata joined hands today to reject the Congress’s choices Pranab Mukherjee and Hamid Ansari and,instead,propose Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,former president A P J Abdul Kalam,and former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee as their choice for President.

“It is obvious. There will be a contest if the Congress does not accept any of these names,” said a source privy to the meeting between the two. During the meeting,sources said,both leaders discussed the possibility of Kalam being backed by the Opposition NDA. “Soniaji is likely to be very angry with Kalam’s name,” Banerjee is learnt to have said. They also discussed the prospect of the PM exiting the government and the massive re-jig in the UPA that would trigger.

SP and TMC together account for over 1.16 lakh votes in the electoral college totalling up to about 10.98 lakh votes.

“Arrey hamara vote 65,000 ke kareeb hi hai. 30-40,000 aur vote hotey to hum apne candidate ke baare mein soch bhi sakte the,” Mulayam had said earlier today. When asked to comment on the additional votes he got thanks to Mamata’s support,he had declined to comment.

“I had met Soniaji about 10 days ago. But it will be improper to divulge the details of the meeting with her,” Mulayam said claiming that they didn’t discuss presidential polls. Sources,however,later said that the Congress had shared the names of Mukherjee and Ansari although party sources said that the meeting was about development in UP and financial support. Incidentally,Mamata is also at loggerheads with the Centre over a financial package for West Bengal.

For Mulayam,who has gained tremendous political heft after his success in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections,this was also a chance to get back to the Congress which did not treat the SP “honourably” despite its support to UPA I during the trust vote in July 2008 over the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Incidentally,there is no threat of President’s rule as in earlier terms given the commanding majority that the SP has in UP. This has given Mulayam space to assert his political weight and not be pushed around by the Congress. With SP joining hands with TMC — similarly secure in West Bengal — the Congress may have lost the elbow room to play one against other to push policy through.

During the meeting today,sources said TMC is learnt to have said that it wasn’t backing Ansari given what it called his “partisan” role during the Lokpal discussion in Rajya Sabha late December last year.

With Mulayam and Mamata joining hands,the Mayawati-led BSP — with over 43,000 votes — becomes the lone major player for the Congress to leverage against both. BSP leaders said the Mulayam-Mamata tango is aimed to ensure there is no “pliable pro-Congress president” given that the verdict in 2014 may be fractured. “Mayawati Behenji will take a call only after reading the situation that appears to be still evolving,” said a BSP source.

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