With leaders making a beeline to meet him, Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav appears to be holding the key to election of the next President.
Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee drove straight to Yadav's residence in Delhi upon her arrival from Kolkata on Tuesday to discuss the presidential elections.
The meeting — second between the two leaders since May — assumes significance as it took place a day before Banerjee’s crucial meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday.
Banerjee will revert to Yadav after her meeting with Gandhi.
The support of Trinamool Congress, a key UPA constituent, and the SP, which supports the ruling dispensation from outside, is vital for the victory of the Congress candidate. The two parties are yet to show their cards on the issue and are waiting for the Congress to declare its nominee.
Earlier in the day, senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh called on Yadav at his residence. The meeting triggered speculation that the BJP leader could be lobbying for the vice-president's post.
But BJP sources said the party leadership had the “knowledge” of Singh's meeting with the SP leader and was intended to understand his mind on the presidential polls.
Though the BJP is yet to spell out its stand on the elections, its NDA partner, JD(U), has sought consensus on the candidate for the coveted post.
On its part, the Shiromani Akali Dal has maintained that it would go along with other NDA allies on the issue. Sources said the NDA will take a call on the issue only after the UPA announced its candidate.
Ahead of Banerjee-Gandhi meeting, the Congress projected a picture of unity in the UPA.
“Whenever there has been a political challenge during the last eight years, UPA has shown that it is not only united but cohesive too,” party spokesman Manish Tewari said.
Congress managers sounded confident of carrying the UPA flock together to get the party nominee elected to the President’s post.