President Pranab, Vice President Jaswant Singh?
New Delhi: With the expected announcement of Presidential poll dates nearing, consensus also appears to be emerging on the candidature of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
Three events have fuelled speculation further. One, Mukherjee met Congress president Sonia Gandhi Monday night; second, he has cancelled his scheduled visit to Afghanistan on Thursday (June 14); and third, Sonia Gandhi today called up West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee twice. The latter will be coming to Delhi later this evening and will likely meet the Congress president tomorrow.
Also, the Election Commission may announce the presidential poll schedule anytime now beginning today. New CEC VS Sampath, while taking over yesterday, had said that the poll dates will be announced very shortly.
Sonia Gandhi, who has been authorized by the Congress Working Committee to pick the party’s candidate, is expected to announce the name by Friday. This may be the reason behind Mukherjee calling off his Afghanistan visit, though officially he has said that the current economic situation has forced him to stay back.
Almost all UPA allies have meanwhile hinted that they will support the Congress candidate, whoever it may be. Among these include the NCP and the DMK.
While Trinamool Congress’ Mamata Banerjee has been bargaining hard for a financial package for West Bengal in return for her party’s support for the UPA candidate, sources say whether the central assistance materializes or not her support is a done deal. All that is in the media is just public posturing, they added.
Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav and BSP’s Mayawati are also most likely to back the UPA candidate.
Speaking to the press yesterday, Mulayam refused to spell out his party’s strategy, stating time will tell who gets their support. But, he did not deny backing UPA’s candidate.
Meanwhile, it appears that the opposition NDA is pitching for former Union minister Jaswant Singh as the next Vice President.
BJP veteran LK Advani is reported to have backed Jaswant Singh’s candidature, who also met Mulayam Singh this morning. The details of the meeting were not available.
As per sources, an arrangement is likely to be worked out wherein the ruling UPA will back the opposition NDA’s VP candidate, while the NDA will support UPA’s nominee for the President.