Kolkata: Swallowing her sense of humiliation, firebrand West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday announced that her party will support UPA’s candidate Pranab Mukherjee in the Presidential poll.
Addressing the press after she held a meeting with TMC MPs and MLAs, Mamata said that the party has taken the decision to support Pranab as it was left with no other option.
She said that the TMC is not happy about having to support Pranab. “It is painful (to decide to support Pranab) but we are doing so to uphold democratic principles,” she said.
“It was the only option. We did not decide to vote for Pranab to please anyone; in a democracy if we don’t vote then it would be betrayal of the people,” she said.
Mamata said that she stood by Pranab when he was going through a difficult phase in his political career and never had a fight with him.
The TMC supremo made a bare reference to Bengali origins of the UPA candidate saying "Pranabda is from Bengal but we have taken the decision due to our commitment to the people".
TMC’s is the second largest constituent in the UPA with 19 MPs in Lok Sabha and 9 in Rajya Sabha. Its decision came apparently under pressure from within the party to back Mukherjee, who would be the first Bengali to become a President.
"Nobody compelled us to take the decision. We did not bow before anybody. It is our unconditional decision. We have taken the decision without any provocation, conspiracy, deal or appeal", Banerjee said.
"At times, in the interest of the people and the state and in the greater interest of democracy, such a decision has to be taken. We thought that whatever decision we have taken, is out of our commitment to the people and not to fulfil our political commitment", she added.
Banerjee, who has blown hot and cold in the recent past with Mukherjee, said, "It is the election to the highest constitutional post. I think it is not wise to waste votes by abstaining. What we decide, was in greater interest and at the cost of ourselves."
Asked if there was any possibility of a financial package for the state, Mamata said, "Trinamool did not go for any bargaining and never entered into any deal in taking this decision. We don`t believe in that kind of politics."
However, she did not open her cards with regards to the Vice Presidential poll. Mamata said that there is enough time left to decide on incumbent Hamid Ansari, who is UPA`s candidate.
Her stand is a clear U-turn as Mamata had dared the Congress and come close to leaving the UPA over Pranab’s nomination as Presidential candidate.
She had along with Mulayam Singh Yadav announced three names – APJ Abdul Kalam, Manmohan Singh and Somnath Chatterjee – as her choices for the next occupant of Rashtrapati Bhavan.
But the wily Mulayam switched sides, leaving her alone in political wilderness.
The decision to back Pranab would have come as a bitter pill, but clearly, she was left with no other option.
Hours after Mamata announced that her party would support Mukherjee in the Presidential poll, Congress president Sonia Gandhi called up the TMC chief and thanked her for the support.
Gandhi also invited the Trinamool chief for tomorrow`s luncheon meeting of UPA allies and other supporting parties.
Mukherjee also called up Mamata and expressed his gratitude to her.
A relieved Congress now hopes that Trinamool will Congress UPA’s Vice Presidential choice Hamid Ansari.
“Congress has always maintained that Mamata is a valuable ally. We hope and trust that the UPA will continue to get her support and cooperation in future also including for the Vice Presidential election," AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi told reporters.
Meanwhile, the opposition BJP took a takes a dig at Mamata for her u-turn on Pranab.
"Under what compulsion has she supported the UPA candidate? Was all this just posturing when Mamata spoke against the uncaring and insensitive policies of the UPA government and has now taken a U-turn? Is she now indifferent to the cause of the common people?" BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said.