When Ram Gopal Yadav’s statement supporting Pranab Mukherjee’s presidential candidature flashed across TV channels on Friday evening, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee was nursing hopes that the Samajwadi Party won’t do a U-turn on their publicly announced nominee APJ Abdul Kalam.
“Mulayamji has not said anything so far,” Banerjee reasoned with close aides as she waited at her Kolkata office. Her expectations were dashed as the SP chief announced from Lucknow that he preferred Mukherjee.
Top sources say it was BJP veteran LK Advani who had used Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy to get Yadav to back Kalam.
As Yadav and Banerjee sprung a surprise pact and rejected Mukherjee, Congress firefighters Ahmed Patel and Kamal Nath reached out to him through brother Ram Gopal.
Behind their stance was Banerjee’s grievance that Mukherjee never sought her support directly while Yadav had expected direct talks with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
Later, a direct communication between him and Gandhi was established. She reportedly reminded Yadav that he had earlier privately pledged support for Mukherjee.
Sources said the Congress decided on Mukherjee’s candidature after Banerjee made public that he was Gandhi’s top preference among the probable candidates.
Yadav on Saturday refuted allegations of a deal with the Congress. “We have given our support to an able and capable politician worthy of the highest constitutional position in the country and not to the UPA or the Congress,” he said.
Meanwhile, in close quarters, BJD boss and Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik has dropped a hint that there could be a change in the party’s strategy to back PA Sangma.
Patnaik had met party MPs close to him at his Bhubaneswar residence after Mukherjee was named the UPA’s presidential candidate. He pointed out to the MPs that his “grandmother was a Bengali” and his father Biju Patnaik “essentially a Congressman”.