NEW DELHI: The race for the Vice Presidential post in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has taken a new turn with Trinamool Congress not sharing Congress’ enthusiasm for a second term for incumbent Mr Hamid Ansari and is keen on proposing former Governor, Mr Gopalkrishna Gandhi.
Like in the Presidential election, Trinamool Congress, which sought to put a spanner in the UPA choice of Mr Pranab Mukherjee, plans to convey its preference for Mr Gandhi at a meeting of the UPA constituents on the issue on Saturday.
The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, who has stepped up efforts to seek a consensus on Mr Ansari’s name by talking to leaders of non-UPA parties like JD(S), CPI(M) and CPI, spoke to Trinamool Congress leader and West Bengal Chief Minister, Ms Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday, seeking support for Mr Ansari.
Ms Banerjee, who has been keeping away from Delhi for about a month after the Congress rejected her choice of Presidential candidates and is yet to declare her party’s support to Mr Mukherjee, has deputed the Railway Minister, Mr Mukul Roy for the meeting. Mr Roy may propose Mr Gandhi’s name along with that of Ms Krishna Bose, former Lok Sabha member and niece of Subhash Chandra Bose, as the Trinamool choice for the Vice President’s post.
The Trinamool Congress, the second largest constituent of the UPA with 28 MPs in both the Houses of Parliament, is keeping its cards close to its chest. However, the UPA is comfortably placed in the electoral college comprising 790 MPs. With the backing of outside supporters like SP and BSP, the UPA has over 500 MPs on its side. But UPA sources maintained that Mr Ansari, who is said to have missed being nominated for the Presidential post, remained the only choice for the ruling alliance for the Vice President’s post.
NCP sources said the Prime Minister had spoken to the party chief, Mr Sharad Pawar twice and only Mr Ansari’s name cropped up during the discussions. CPI(M) general secretary, Mr Prakash Karat said he favoured a non-Congress person for the post of Vice President and had conveyed the same to the Prime Minister. "We have told the Prime Minister that we would like to have a person who does not belong to Congress party to be the Vice President," Mr Karat told reporters in Chennai. Mr Karat said the Vice Presidential candidate should have "stature and a distinguished background."
The Prime Minister also spoke to CPI leaders, Mr A B Bardhan and Mr Sudhakar Reddy on Wednesday night and sought their support for the Vice Presidential election. The two leaders told Dr Singh that the CPI central secretariat will meet on July 18 and take a decision on the Vice Presidential elections.
The JD(U), which is supporting Mr Mukherjee’s Presidential bid, said it will wait for Congress-led UPA to announce its nominee for the Vice Presidential election and will talk to its NDA allies before taking any decision on the issue. "We will wait for UPA to announce its candidate. How do you play football when there is no ball in the field," JD(U) chief, Mr Sharad Yadav said when asked whether his party favoured a contest in the Vice Presidential poll.
Meanwhile, UPA chairperson Ms Sonia Gandhi is hosting a lunch for the MPs of the UPA and those backing Mr Mukherjee’s candidature on July 18, a day ahead of the Presidential election.