Race to Raisina: Pranabda leads, Meira a close second
United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi is working hard to get the support of entire spectrum of political parties, including the Left as well as Bharatiya Janata Party, for party’s presidential candidate.
Sources close to 10 Janpath said that activities were in full swing to ensure “near unanimity” if not “complete unity” among the political parties for the party’s presidential candidate.
The Left parties have already signalled that they are not opposed to the Congress’ presidential candidate per se. The Left has been sounded out at an informal level by 10 Janpath confidants that Pranab Mukherjee is on the top of the ladder in the scheme of things. The Left is learnt to be in favour of Mukherjee’s name. However, Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar is also in the race.
The allies of the UPA have by and large given their views to the Congress president during their meetings in the last one month and have consented to support a political candidate. Most of the allies who met have not disclosed what transpired during these meetings. If signs are to be read, vice-president Dr Hamid Ansari is not a favoured choice. His OSD has quit and taken over as a full-time CEO of the Rajya Sabha TV while Ansari’s private secretary is in line to become a member of the election commission. Even the Left parties have conveyed that they are not particularly keen for his promotion. “It is for the Congress to choose,” a top Left leader said.
Ansari was propped by the Left in 2007 as vice-president. Now Mamata Banerjee is opposed to Ansari and will back Pranab Mukherjee. The Samajwadi Party is not averse to supporting him either.
Thus the UPA, its allies and the Left are all set to back Mukherjee. The BJP will be in a tough situation to back PA Sangma particularly when LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley have close ties with Mukherjee.
No doubt, some BJP leaders including Gujrat CM narendra Modi want party to back PA Sangma, but in the growing clamour for Pranab Mukherjee, it will be difficult for the party to go in for a contest.
When Nitin Gadkari went to invite Sonia Gandhi for the marriage of his son, the louder message was that there would not be any confrontation on such issues. Sonia is keen to avoid a contest for the post as was the case in 2007 when the BJP fielded its candidate against Pratibha Patil.
There are other indications also in the government about the emergence of Mukherjee as a possible choice.
Pranab Mukherjee was not made head of the group of ministers (GoM) on coal regulator and instead the task was given to home minister P Chidambaram. The finance minister is not taking several important and controversial decisions, including fixing base price of spectrum.
However, Janata Dal (U) has indicated that it would favour Meira Kumar due to her Bihar connection and also because she is a dalit. Therefore, the BJP will not like to delink itself from its crucial ally either and may support Meira Kumar too. But the Congress problem is not Meira Kumar. It’s Pranab Mukherjee who is insisting for the Raisina Hill job.