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 UPA Candidate for Presidentship

Mainstream, VOL L, No 31, July 21, 2012

Behind Pranab’s Nomination as the
 UPA Candidate for Presidentship

Friday 27 July 2012

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had threatened to resign from the Union Council of Ministers if he was not made the UPA nominee for the presidential elections after his candidature was rejected by TMC chief Mamata Banerjee. In an article in The Sunday Guardian (June 27, 2012). entitled “One dagger, and many cloaks” M.J. Akbar wrote: “It is common knowledge that Pranab Mukherjee was never Sonia Gandhi’s choice for President. If he had been, his name would have been announced a month ago, with none of the ensuing tension. When the end game arrived, she tried to make Vice-President Hamid Ansari her candidate. As an individual he had credibility built over a long career of integrity, but he also possessed a name that would travel over the shoals of political danger. Her problem was that Mukherjee not only wanted the job, but had made his desire public and gone to the extent of suggesting that he would prefer retirement to rejection. Every possibility was examined with some attention, including a wholesale reconfiguration of government. When Mamata Banerjee took a hard stand against Mukherjee, another avenue opened up. Mrs Gandhi expected Banerjee to sabotage Mukherjee so that she could argue that there was no realistic option left but Ansari. When Mamata and Mulayam instigated the crisis, Mrs Gandhi realised that only Mukherjee had the clout to pull the Congress out of this confusion.” This was brought out in the following report in the Deccan Herald (June 20, 2012) under the heading “When Pranab threatened to resign”.

Informed sources told Deccan Herald that Mukherjee was “furious” and “threatened to resign” as Union Minister saying that it was a huge embarrassment for him after his name was opposed as the UPA candidate by key ally—the TMC.

However, Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Minister of State in the PMO V.

Narayanaswamy, who were assigned the task to mollify the veteran Congress leader, prevented him from taking the extreme step.

It was as part of this strategy that Ahmed Patel and Narayanaswamy went to meet Mukherjee at his North Block office at 9:30 pm on June 13. On June 14 Sonia Gandhi held a series of meetings with Mukherjee, Defence Minister A.K. Antony, P. Chidambaram and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar to discuss the issue.

The senior Congress leader was convinced not to take any extreme step only after he was assured that he will be UPA’s nominee for the presidential elections.

Sources also informed that Ahmed Patel and P. Chidambaram were two Congressmen responsible for building consensus and the Congress deciding to announce Mukherjee’s name as the UPA candidate for presidential polls.

The two leaders worked on building consensus on Mukherjee’s name after Banerjee rejected his candidature after meeting Sonia Gandhi on June 13, where she was told that the Union Finance Minister and Hamid Ansari are first and second choices of the Congress. After her meeting with the Congress President, Banerjee held a joint press conference with Mulayam Singh Yadav on the same day and announced the candidates that were supported by the SP and TMC.

(Courtesy: Deccan Herald)

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