In less than 48 hours, the Samajwadi Party (SP) yesterday did a U-turn on its support to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as the country’s president, now backing him wholeheartedly. “Samajwadi Party supports Pranab Mukherjee. He is a vidwan (scholar) in politics and under the present national situation, he is the most suitable person to be the country’s president,” said SP chief Mulayam Singh soon after the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) endorsed the finance minister’s name as its candidate for the presidential polls.
On Wednesday, Mulayam Singh had, along with Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee, virtually rejected the name of Mukherjee, a suggestion made by Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Asked why he had changed his opinion all of a sudden, the SP chief quipped, “In politics, such questions are useless. As new situation emerges, decisions are taken.” With this, Mulayam Singh and his party has in one deft move ditched Banerjee in her effort to take along the SP to counter the Congress in the presidential polls.
TMC still for Kalam
Terming the SP supremo a “traitor”, the TMC leadership said they are still hopeful about having a consensus on APJ Abdul Kalam as the next president. “We all know that Mamata Banerjee sticks to whatever she says. Now it is for the people of the country to decide on the betrayal of Mulayam Singh,” said TMC MP Sukhendu Shekar Ray.
Subrata Bakshi, TMC state president and MP, said, “In politics there is nothing called last word. We have heard that both SP and BSP have extended their support, but you must keep in mind one thing that presidential election is still far away. We stick to our stand and we are hopeful about clinching a consensus. We stick to whatever our chief said.”
FM after Pranab
Avid speculation on who would replace the finance minister began almost immediately in the Congress. Mukherjee’s possible elevation to the high office would mean the party would have to find two people who could replace him as finance minister and leader of the house in the Lok Sabha. According to party insiders, while PM Manmohan Singh may like to appoint Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia or C Rangarajan, who heads the prime minister’s Economic Advisory Council, as the next finance minister, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi would prefer a party veteran for the key cabinet post.
The names that are being discussed in the party and other political circles are those of senior leaders like Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, Human Resource Development and Communications Minister Kapil Sibal and Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh.
It’s far better than being the PM: Mukherjee’s daughter
Expressing happiness over Mukherjee being nominated the UPA’s presidential candidate, his family members said he is the most suitable candidate and deserves it.
“I’m very happy with the nomination and it is very good,” said an elated Suvra Mukherjee, the minister’s wife. Expressing hope that her husband would become the next president, Mukherjee’s wife, a singer of repute, said she would cook him his favourite Bengali delicacies minus oil and spices. The minister’s daughter Sharmistha Mukherjee said her father deserved to be the president. “This is high time... I think it has been offered to him and we are really proud. I think he deserves it and he also deserves a little rest so I’m really happy for that,” said Sharmistha, a kathak dancer. She said her father worked relentlessly and was very passionately involved in his job. “It is far better than being the prime minister as he will have time to rest,” she said. Echoing the same words, the minister’s son Abhijit Mukherjee said his father was the most suitable candidate.
Omar Abdullah cheers Pranabda, takes dig at Didi
Within minutes of the announcement of Mukherjee being the UPA’s presidential candidate, Jammu and Kashmir CM Omar Abdullah congratulated him through a tweet. “Congratulations to Pranab Da. I have no doubt he will make an excellent president & I’m pleased to have been able to commit NC’s support,” Abdullah tweeted. He also took a dig at Banerjee. “And finally before I take off back to Srinagar a final thought — how on earth will Mamata explain opposing a Bengali for President?”