The two names floated informally by the Congress as potential presidential candidates – finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and vice-president Hamid Ansari – seemed to have found support across parties though the principal opposition BJP rejected both.
Regional parties -- allies and foes of the Congress alike – were on Wednesday waiting for the ruling party to propose its candidate. As they waited, the Congress strategy was to talk with all friendly parties on the broad principles of the choice before getting into the nitty-gritty of naming specific candidates.
The party also said it was willing to "talk to all parties, including the BJP" in an effort to evolve a consensus.
But the Congress is particular that the candidate must be a "political person" -- an idea that has already gained support from the Left and the DMK.
Key ally Mamata Banerjee is expected to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday to discuss the matter.
SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav rejected the names floated by his party colleagues on Tuesday — those of APJ Abdul Kalam and SY Quraishi — as premature.
“Nobody has suggested any names to us. We have not discussed any name yet,” Yadav said, while his cousin and senior party leader Ram Gopal Yadav said proposals without the approval of the party amounted to “indiscipline”.
The Yadavs feel that the SP should only play a reactive role rather than attempting to change the course of the discussions.
The Left parties have openly offered support for both Ansari and Mukherjee. In fact, Ansari was the Left’s nominee as vice-president in 2007 and Mukherjee was among the names suggested by it then for the post of president. With the DMK’s offer of support to the Congress being unqualified, and NCP amenable, the Trinamool is the real concern for the Congress. However, Trinamool leader Banerjee may find it difficult to oppose Mukherjee, given the sentiments it may evoke in her home state of West Bengal.
However, the chances of a wildcard entry remained, with Mulayam recalling how his casual suggestion of Kalam as president gathered such momentum in little time that all parties except the Left came around to accepting him.
But this time, Kalam’s name has few takers. Though BJP leader Sushma Swaraj suggested his name on Monday, even key NDA ally JD(U) is not keen on him as he doesn’t represent any political constituency in Bihar, where it is in power. “It is a stillborn idea,” a BJP leader admitted.