National

Pranab gets Mamata’s backing in Presidential bid

Our Bureau Kolkata | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on July 17, 2012

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Ms Mamata Banerjee and Mr Pranab Mukherjee in Kolkata in May last year (file photo)

Trinamool chief says decision to support candidature was made with ‘heavy heart’

The West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo, Ms Mamata Banerjee, on Tuesday, did a volte-face and announced her party’s decision to support Mr Pranab Mukherjee for the upcoming Presidential polls, scheduled to be held on July 19.

Ms Banerjee, who had been opposing Mr Mukherjee’s candidature, said that her decision (to support Mr Mukherjee) was taken with a “heavy heart” and following the “absence of alternatives”.

Mr Mukherjee is the UPA’s Presidential candidate. The other candidate — backed by the BJP and some of its allies — in the fray is former Lok Sabha Speaker, Mr P. A. Sangma.

“It is not that we are supporting Mr (Pranab) Mukherjee with a big smile. There is some sadness somewhere and pain in our hearts. But there is actually no alternative to him. We have no option in this regard,” she told reporters at Writers’ Buildings (State Secretariat).

Pranab welcomes decision

Within minutes of the Trinamool Congress supporting his bid, UPA-II candidate, Mr Pranab Mukherjee welcomed the decision.

“I welcome her decision. I welcome the decision taken by the Trinamool Congress chief Ms Mamata Banerjee,” he told a private television channel. He, however, did not say anything further in this regard.

Kalam first choice

Reiterating that Dr A. P. J. Abdul Kalam was her first choice, Ms Banerjee maintained that the former President’s decision not to contest elections has left her with no option.

“We had Dr Kalam. But some parties were against his candidature. Seeing the objection raised by others, he too did not express interest to contest elections. It is our misfortune. But had he been in the fray, we would have supported him,” she said.

While, abstaining from votes was an obvious alternative, the other option open was to support the BJP-backed Mr Sangma. However, coalition politics and local sentiment also played a part in influencing the tilt towards Mr Mukherjee, she said.

“We could have abstained from voting. But I do not want to waste our rights. We are the second largest party in the UPA and keeping in mind the compulsions of a coalition, we have decided to go with Mr Mukherjee,” she maintained.

Ms Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, with 19 MPs in the Lok Sabha and 9 in the Rajya Sabha, is the second largest party in the UPA-II at the Centre.

Mending Fences

Maintaining that the controversy over the support for Mr Pranab Mukherjee was a “closed chapter”, Ms Banerjee said she was the one to facilitate his return to the Congress after a brief standalone stint. She further added that she was not in touch with Mr Mukherjee for the last eight months.

Meanwhile, welcoming the decision, Congress MP, Mr Adhir Chowdhury said: “There was no need to sour relations (between TMC and Congress). But saying that she had no alternative except supporting Pranab makes us feel as if the decision was thrust on her. We hope that the decision will strengthen the coalition.”

> abhishek.l@thehindu.co.in

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Published on July 17, 2012
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