Kolkata: Sticking to its stand on the issue of Presidential election, the Trinamool Congress said on Monday that the former president of India APJ Abdul Kalam was still the party’s choice for the top post of the country.
Speaking to reporters here, party spokesperson Sudip Bandopadhya said that even though Kalam had formally withdrawn from the race to the Raisina Hill, the party will do its best to convince the former president to stand for election.
Also, in yet another sign of widening rift between the TMC and the Congress, the TMC MP said without mincing words, “The Congress is not running the government at the Centre alone.”
"Trinamool ministers are mentally prepared to resign from the central government if the Congress thinks we are a burden or if Mamata Banerjee instructs them to do so. We will not stay by force. We should not be given any indirect threat", leader of the TMC parliamentary party in the Lok Sabha said.
"If Trinamool Congress leaves the UPA on its own, it will give a wrong message to the people that it wanted to topple the UPA government," a party leader quoted Banerjee as having said at a crucial meeting of party MPs and MLAs shortly after APJ Abdul Kalam announced his decision to opt out of the presidential race.
The TMC has 19 MPs in the present Lok Sabha.
Earlier, there were reports of TMC ministers in the Union Cabinet submitting their resignation to Mamata Banerjee.
Briefing newsmen about the nearly two-hour meeting, Bandopadhyay, however, said reports that party MPS and union ministers submitting letters of resignation to the party supremo were "totally baseless."
"We have not tendered our resignation letters anywhere, neither to the party supremo nor to the government.
"Our leader Mamata Banerjee has categorically said that we do not want to make this government weak," Bandopadhyay said.
"It is an ugly and motivated report. It will not take us a second`s time to resign from the UPA government. If Mamata directs, Railway minister Mukul Roy and the other six ministers of state would resign," he added.
The relationship between Mamata Banerjee and the Congress has hit rock bottom on the issue of Presidential polls with the unpredictable leader from West Bengal openly taking on the UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on the contentious issue.
First, Mamata, in what left the grand old party red-faced, had gone ahead and spelt out the name of Pranab Mukherjee and Hamid Ansari as Congress’ choice of candidates for President after a close-door meeting with Sonia and then along with Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, she had listed out her own candidates which included Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
This turn of events had left the Congress fuming and the party lost no time at hitting out at Mamata for not adhering to the dharma of coalition politics. Things got from bad to worse with Mamata refusing to attend the UPA meet last Friday where the candidature of Pranab for President was announced by Sonia Gandhi.
What came as a shock for Mamata was the fact that Mulayam did a complete U-turn and backed the candidature of Pranab for President. Not to be outdone, Mamata in an ominous warning to the Congress said that the ‘game was not over yet.’ Since then she has stuck to the name of Kalam even though the former President has said he would not contest.
Lot is at stake for Mamata at this juncture. Either she swallows her pride and continues to support the UPA or she withdraws from the government at the Centre, hoping for mid-term polls which might see her party’s tally go up in the next Lok Sabha. But if Mulayam decides to join the UPA, then there may not be early General elections and Mamata may lose out on a friendly government at the Centre.
Remember, the Chief Minister is seeking a bailout package from the Centre for her state and needs huge financial assistance from the UPA government to rescue West Bengal from the financial mess that it is in.
However, one thing is clear that Mamata will continue to use pressure tactics on the Congress to get either what she wants and if not, then do what she did with NDA in 2004 - walk out of the government at Centre this time around too.