Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee — numerically the strongest and temperamentally the most unpredictable of the Congress’ allies — let a tinge of ambiguity prevail even as she promised support to senior UPA partner’s presidential candidate.
The names of vice-president Hamid Ansari and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee as possible candidates are doing the rounds but the Congress has kept silent, saying presidential poll race is still to take off.
Banerjee on Thursday met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi for 20 minutes and reportedly said she would back the party in the presidential polls but didn’t say if she would support a candidate proposed by the alliance leader.
The position is at variance with the DMK and NCP, the two other UPA allies, which have given the Congress a freehand to propose a candidate.
Sources close to the West Bengal chief minister said it was for the Congress to suggest names and then she might express her opinion.
However, in her meeting with Gandhi, Banerjee didn’t suggest any names nor did she object to any. When she spoke to the media, Banerjee gave little away. “I’m the candidate” she joked on being asked to name her choice.
At a time when she has a substantial clout in Delhi, the Bengal CM is keen on a concrete assurance on a three-year moratorium on state’s annual interest repayment of Rs. 18,100 crore.
She expects to hear the final word on interest repayment when she meets the prime minister on Friday. After meeting Gandhi, Banerjee met Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Aware that the Congress needs both the parties for a smooth going, Banerjee said, "We discussed all issues. We will collectively decide our steps." She later met Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel over tea.
Earlier in the day, the prime minister, Congress chief and the finance minister discussed Banerjee's demands. Expenditure secretary Sumit Bose, who heads the committee looking into "debt stress" of Bengal, Kerala and Punjab, also met Mukherjee.