Presidential race: Congress rejects Mamata-Mulayam options
New Delhi:In a rebuff to Trinamool Congress and Samajwadi Party, Congress on Thursday rejected the three names proposed by them, sending signals that it was not in a mood to bow before them.
“We cannot afford to spare Dr. Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister. The other two names (A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Somnath Chatterjee) are not acceptable,” Congress General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi told reporters.
“During UPA-II (election of leader), we have already said he (Dr. Singh) will remain the Prime Minister till 2014. Congress does not take such a step (of changing its leader) in between,” he said.
His forthright assertion came after Congress president Sonia Gandhi held parleys with senior party leaders Pranab Mukherjee, A.K. Antony and P. Chidambaram at her residence in the wake of TMC and SP stunning the party by proposing three names as a counter to candidature of Mr. Mukherjee and Vice President Hamid Ansari.
Congress talks tough
Virtually disapproving of Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee’s action of disclosing the names of Mr. Mukherjee and Mr. Ansari as first and second choices of Congress, Mr. Dwivedi said the process of consultation was still on and Ms. Gandhi had not finalised any name.
Ms. Gandhi is in the process of consulting even single-member parties and in the course of it two names have come up. “If Congress had decided on the name, two names would not have come up,” he said.
“There is a dignity to the process. When such talks are held, names are not discussed outside,” the Congress leader said, apparently referring to Ms. Banerjee disclosing the names to the media immediately after meeting Ms. Gandhi at her residence on Wednesday.
DMK to support Congress nominee
DMK Parliamentary leader T.R. Baalu met her and said Ms. Gandhi will be announcing the name of the UPA Presidential candidate anytime later this week.
“Keeping in view political stature and seniority in public life, my leader Karunanidhi was consulted by Madam last month through Antony. My leader had suggested a name. The name has been communicated by Antony to Madam. Madam at any point of time, will be announcing the decision,” Mr. Baalu told reporters.
He said the name of the person cannot be divulged as of now and parried questions on whether the candidate is among the five persons whose names have been made public.
“Madam will announce it shortly. Not today… At any point within this week,” he said.
When asked if DMK was fine with Mr. Mukherjee’s candidature, he said, “It is between the two higher ups. My leader has communicated the matter long back. We stand by it.”
Besides DMK, Ms. Gandhi also held discussions with Nationalist Congress Party.