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HindustanTimes Tue,16 Sep 2014

Cautious Cong goes easy on Didi

Aurangzeb Naqshbandi and Saubhadra Chatterji , Hindustan Times  New Delhi, June 16, 2012
First Published: 23:57 IST(16/6/2012) | Last Updated: 00:00 IST(17/6/2012)

Wary of Samajwadi chief Mulayam Singh Yadav's wavering moves, the Congress does not want to burn its bridges with the Trinamool Congress, and hopes that West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee will eventually agree to its choice of the presidential candidate.

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Notwithstanding Banerjee's insistence on APJ Abdul Kalam's candidature for the President's post, the central leadership of the Congress has sent a clear message to its West Bengal unit to "tone down its attacks" against the maverick Trinamool chief.

Despite Kalam turning a cold shoulder to her proposal, Banerjee continues to oppose the candidature of finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, a fellow Bengali, for the titular post. Trinamool sources maintain that so far, Banerjee has not charted the party strategy if Kalam refuses to run for President.

However, the Congress continues to hope for a positive outcome. "We still hope that if voting takes place, she will not only support Pranabda's candidature but also encourage other parties from Bengal to do so," said party in-charge of West Bengal affairs Shakeel Ahmed.

Banerjee pushed her ties with the Congress to the brink after she went public with the details of last week's meeting with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on the presidential polls.

Though the Congress leadership is visibly upset with her "whimsical behaviour and frequent tantrums", it wants the alliance to continue. However, at the same time, Congress leaders maintain that it would be difficult to carry on beyond a certain level of tolerance.

"This far, no further," asserted a senior functionary, indicating that the Congress is no longer willing to put up with Banerjee's red flags on pending economic reforms. "We will try to accommodate her views but won't satisfy her whims anymore," he said.

Meanwhile, a lot depends on Banerjee's response to Congress overtures. On Friday, hours after Mulayam's u-turn, she had opened a Facebook account to campaign for Kalam. "I gave voice to what millions of Indians want to see in a President. Kalam is a man of integrity who has... made the nation proud."


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