New Delhi: With Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mamata Banerjee joining hands to oppose Pranab Mukherjee as President, the Congress finds itself in bind on Thursday.
Firstly, going by Congress’ tradition, it would be very difficult for the party to overlook Sonia Gandhi’s preferences – her first choice being Pranab and second Hamid Ansari.
Moreover, the party would not want to appear to have once again capitulated in front of Mamata, who has already caused a lot of heartburn within the party and the UPA government by blocking key reform bills.
As per reports, Thursday, the Congress has made up its mind to dig in its heels and stick to the plan - ‘either Pranab of Ansari for President’.
Mamata and Mulayam had proposed three names - Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former President PAJ Abdul Kalam and former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee.
The Congress and the PMO are aghast at the suggestion that Prime Minister be the next occupant of Rashtrapati Bhavan and see it as a move to build pressure on the Congress.
Somnath Chatterjee may be an acceptable name but because his name appears to have been proposed by Mamata - to counter any adverse fall out of opposing a fellow Bengali, Pranab - the Congress would still want to stick to its original choice just to prove a point to the West Bengal Chief Minister.
And, APJ Abdul Kalam - if the Congress would have had wanted he could have got a second term in 2007 itself.
The Congress party went into a huddle late last night to chart out the next move even as it appears to have been outmanoeuvred by allies.
A UPA meeting is also expected to be called soon to try and build a consensus.
But the big question remains: Can the Congress afford to overlook allies and press ahead with its choice as the next President of India?
Plain arithmetic suggests that Congress cannot do it if TMC and SP were to stand in opposition. Also, if the party loses the Presidential elections then it may lead to the fall of the government and snap elections.
Agreeing to Mamata and Mulayam would mean loss of face for Sonia; the Congress is in a fix.
Meanwhile, Pranab Mukherjee is at 10 Janpath to meet Sonia Gandhi.