Will Trinamool chief and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee use her support for Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee’s presidential candidature as a bargaining tool to extract a financial package for her state? Trinamool leaders think so.
There is also a regional factor at work. According to sources, a section of senior leaders believe since Mukherjee’s nomination means giving the first person from West Bengal a chance to become President, opposing him can send a wrong signal to the people of the state.
“The Congress will decide on a name, after which we’ll sit in an open discussion. Banerjee will take the final decision. Our party chief has already expressed her choice of names,” Sisir Adhikari, senior leader and Union minister of state, rural development, told HT.
In a recent television interview, Banerjee made it clear that former President APJ Abdul Kalam, Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar and former West Bengal governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi were her choices. However, party sources said it was a pressure tactic.
Banerjee is keen on a financial package for the state because its debt almost cancels out its revenue. On Monday, West Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra met Mukherjee in New Delhi on financial relief.
“Banerjee will speak to Mukherjee again on the issue,” Mitra said before the meeting.
In 1996, then West Bengal CM Jyoti Basu had the opportunity to become prime minister but the party leadership denied him the chance.
To date, no one from West Bengal has become President, Vice-President or Prime Minister — the three highest offices in the country.
“Pranabbabu is a son of the soil, and this involves the sentiments of millions of Bengalis,” West Bengal irrigation minister (and Congress MLA) Manas Bhuniya said on Sunday.