New Delhi/Kolkata: With the race to the Rashtrapati Bhavan entering in its final lap, all eyes are on Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, who is expected to meet West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday to seek her support for Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature as the next President.
The Congress has so far remained tight-lipped on its choice for the top post. However, veteran Congress leader and Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has emerged as the front-runner among those vying to occupy the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
The TMC chief arrived in the national capital last night for consultations with UPA chairperson today on the issue of Presidential poll nominee of UPA amid intense speculation on Pranab Mukherjee's candidature for the post.
Soon after her arrival here, Banerjee, whose Trinamool Congress is a key constituent of UPA, met Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav to discuss the Presidential polls.
Trinamool Congress, with 19 members in the Lok Sabha, is the largest constituent of UPA after Congress. Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party, which has 22 members in the Lok Sabha, is an outside supporter of the ruling Congress-led alliance.
Before leaving for Delhi, Banerjee said she would wait for Congress to propose a nominee for the top Constitutional post.
On being told that the name of Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's was doing the rounds as the Presidential nominee, she replied "That is a Congress matter. Let me see what she (Sonia Gandhi) says".
Sonia Gandhi has been authorised by the Congress Working Committee to decide on the candidate for the President's post and since then she is engaged in consultations with allies on evolving a consensus nominee.
Defence Minister AK Antony has already held discussions with DMK chief M Karunanidhi while Sonia Gandhi had had talks with NCP leader Sharad Pawar and RLD chief Ajit Singh on the presidential candidate.
Both Mamata and Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav hold the key to the Rashtrapati Bhawan and for now both seem to have given the green signal to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
On his part, Pranab also appears to have beaten others in the race but his elevation hinges on Didi’s support and she on her part has linked support to his Presidential bid with a special financial package for West Bengal.
Yesterday, state Finance Minister Amit Mitra met Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to discuss the issue.
Today’s Mamata-Sonia meeting is crucial as the Trinamool leader is expected to bargain hard on a financial package for her state West Bengal. Mamata will also meet Mulayam again after her meeting with Sonia.
However, the Congress has dismissed any possibility of a quid pro quo between any help to states and the Presidential poll.
Importantly, Sonia – reportedly - made up her mind to support Pranab’s presidential bid after meeting him yesterday evening.
Samajwadi Party chief has also emerged as another key player in the high-stakes game. He has indicated that he may support Congress’ candidate but has refused to reveal his cards at the moment.
Reports said that he may also seek a financial package for Uttar Pradesh before professing his support for Pranab.
With PTI Inputs
First Published: Wednesday, June 13, 2012, 09:20