After getting DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi’s unfettered approval to push a “political candidate” for President, the Congress will now talk to its key ally Mamata Banerjee.
Banerjee is reaching the capital on Wednesday and is expected to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi the next day. Congress sources said the party would start internal deliberations on potential candidates only after finishing one round of talks with its allies.
Though Vice-President Hamid Ansari and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee were discussed as potential candidates during defence minister AK Antony’s Sunday meeting with Karunanidhi, Congress sources said no name has been discussed within the party.
What reassured the Congress is a virtual open offer from Karunanidhi that he has no specific objections to anyone.
Antony and Karunanidhi also agreed on the desirability of a “political candidate” – a euphemism that could brighten the chances of Mukherjee than Ansari.
Even JD(U) leader and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar is open to the idea of Mukherjee as president, a source close to him told Hindustan Times.
NCP leader Sharad Pawar was quoted as calling for a “non-political” candidate, but later denied having said so. During his meeting with Gandhi, Pawar had called for consensus on the name.
Congress sources said there would be more clarity on the issue after Gandhi’s meeting with Banerjee. The Trinamool Congress chief, who advanced her Delhi visit to ensure sufficient time for negotiations over the presidential poll and other issues, is expected to spell out her choice at the meeting.
Though Banerjee is not in the best of terms with Mukherjee, it will be difficult for her to be seen as opposing him – a fellow Bengali.
Congress managers are also banking on the support of many non-UPA and non-NDA parties. They are confident that Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and Mayawati’s BSP would not adopt a confrontationist attitude on the issue and finally come around.
“There will be serious efforts to bring them on board,” a senior party functionary said.
With the chances of a contest for the coveted post increasing after the BJP ruled out any support to a Congress candidate, the ruling party is pulling out all the stops to ensure its nominee occupies Rashtrapati Bhavan.