Congress ‘trouble shooter’ Pranab Mukherjee is Mamata Banerjee’s first choice as the presidential candidate. Trinamool Congress would support Mukherjee if he is nominated, senior party leaders told HT on Wednesday.
However, the party supreme is yet to decide her strategy vis-à-vis other names. The matter would come up for discussion during her four-day trip in New Delhi and scheduled meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
“If Pranab Mukherjee is placed a candidate for the next President of India, we would whole heartedly support him. He is an outstanding leader, statesman. Our leader Mamata Banerjee holds Pranabda in high regard. She thinks that he is a suitable person for the chair,” said a senior Trinamool leader close to Mamata Banerjee.
According to sources in the party, Mamata Banerjee’s long association and rapport with the finance minister is supposed to work behind the decision. She also thinks that if Mukherjee become the President, Bengal’s cause may also get some support from the son of the soil.
“I am going to Delhi. Leaders of various political parties come and meet me during such trips. I am a parliamentarian for 25 years. We will hold talks over the issue,” said Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata before leaving for Delhi.
“I am also supposed to have a courtesy meeting with Sonia Gandhi. We have not met since she was not keeping well,” Mamata said.
It was Pranab Mukherjee who was instrumental in dealing with Mamata Banerjee on many issues after she became an UPA ally and later the chief minister of Bengal. Mukherjee is believed to have always kept in touch with Mamata on several thorny issues from Teesta water dispute, FDI in retail apart from issues of the finance ministry like the so-called Bengal package and the state government’s demand of a three-year moratorium of payment of debt obligations.
There are other considerations as well. “If the Congress fails to return in power in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Mukherjee may have a sphere of influence from Rashtrapati Bhavan,” said another senior TMC leader.
A section of TMC party leaders also hinted at another benefit for the party. They think with Mukherjee out of the finance ministry, it would be easier for Mamata Banerjee to coax financial benefits from the Centre.
Mukherjee so far had played hardball with Mamata Banerjee, refusing to meet her demand for a so-called financial bail out package and the moratorium.
Party leaders said that in case of Mukherjee not being in the fray, Mamata Banerjee is yet to firm up her strategy on other candidates. She will hold discussions regarding this with party leaders and leaders from other parties like Samajwadi Party over the issue.
The meeting between Singh and Mamata may witness some wrangling over issues such the presidential candidate and her demands for a financial bailout.
On April 21, Mamata issued a 15-day ultimatum to the Centre to grant her three-year moratorium. Though she later clarified it is as a request, the West Bengal chief minister sounded stern when she announced the threat.
Names like Pranab Mukherjee, Hamid Ansari, APJ Abdul Kalam, Meira Kumar are doing the rounds in Delhi for the Presidential poll. Even regional parties like Samajwadi Party and Janata Dal United have already formed their own opinions over the names.