New Delhi: 9:44 AM: Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the Presidential elections at 12 noon on Friday. Pranab Mukherjee will also attend the UPA meet on teh Presidential elections at 4 pm on Friday.
Meanwhile, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has left for Agra to meet local leaders.
9:10 AM: The Congress sources have claimed that Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has assured them his support for their Presidential candidate.
Samajwadi Party leaders Ram Gopal and Naresh Agarwal met party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on Friday to discuss the Presidential candidate. Sources say Agarwal has been the main negotiator between SP and the Congress on the Presidential poll. Congress leaders Rajiv Shukla and Digvijaya Singh are among the main interlocutors, say sources.
8:40 AM: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has invited former President APJ Abdul Kalam for lunch on Friday. Nitish Kumar had also gone to receive APJ Abdul Kalam at the Patna airport on Thursday. There were reports on Thursday that Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had called Nitish seeking support for Kalam in the Presidential poll. However, sources later denied that Mamata spoke to Nitish.
It is a crucial day ahead for the Presidential race. The UPA will meet on Friday and the Congress is likely to come out with its Presidential nominee. Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will skip the meet as she feels there is no point in attending the meet because the candidate has already been decided.
Sources say that Sonia Gandhi has warned all allies like the NCP and the DMK that Mamata and Mulayam want early polls and so, a show of strength is crucial.
All eyes are now on whether Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee will be the Congress's Presidential candidate or if a 'dark horse' will emerge. In a cautious move, the Congress delayed its UPA meet to Friday evening in order to meet more allies.
Meanwhile, the NDA is also set to meet at 11 am at senior leader LK Advani's residence to discuss the situation. The BJP has, however, said that it was waiting for the UPA to come out with a nominee first.
The race to the President office on Thursday witnessed lots of politics and speculation, but no decisions appeared in sight. A day after the royal snub by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee along with Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, the Congress worked on all fronts to isolate the West Bengal Chief Minister.
The party in fact began attempts to build consensus within the UPA on its choices, with Pranab Mukherjee remaining its first choice. The Congress also came out strongly in defence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh insisting that he would continue in the job and finish his term till 2014, pointing that the party had made the commitment to the people of the country in the beginning of the tenure of the UPA-II itself.
Mamata Banerjee, maintaining her tough stand, announced later in the day that she would skip that meet and even dared the Congress to drop her out of the UPA if they found her to be a liability. She even met Mulayam Singh again and claimed that former APJ Abdul Kalam was their first choice for the President. This, even as reports said that Kalam told Mamata he would contest in the poll only if he was assured a 60 per cent majority.
Sources, however, suggested differences between the Trinamool Congress chief and the Samajwadi Party supremo. According to sources, while Mamata made her final choice for Kalam, Mulayam wanted all three candidates named earlier. The Samajwadi Party chief is likely to clarify his stand before the media on Friday.
Amidst the drama emerged the name of a dark horse in the form of Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, whose name is likely to be discussed at the UPA meeting on Friday along with those of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Vice President Hamid Ansari.
While clamour grew for Abdul Kalam and Pranad Mukherjee, the BJD maintained that its choice for the President's post remained NCP leader PA Sangma.
With many names in the contest, the race still remains complicated. Therefore, all eyes will be on the NDA and the UPA meets to see whether the two come up with two clear candidates for the President's post.
The big questions:
- Will Mulayam back the UPA candidate as Congress sources claim?
- Will Mamata quit the UPA if Sonia insists on Pranab?
- Will Pranab, like Kalam, contest only if a win is assured?
- Are SP, TMC looking at mid-term elections?
- Is Mamata's exit from the UPA inevitable?