PM speaks to Mamata, CPI leader Bardhan

Kolkata/New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday night stepped up efforts to drum up support for Hamid Ansari for a second tenure in the post of Vice President, elections to which are scheduled for August 7, as he spoke to Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and CPI leader A B Bardhan.

Singh rang up Mamata but there was no official word on what transpired between the two leaders while CPI National Secretary D Raja said the Prime Minister spoke to Bardhan and his party colleague Sudhakar Reddy over phone seeking the Left party`s support for Ansari for the Vice President`s post.

Singh spoke to Mamata Banerjee, who was on a tour of North Bengal, after which TMC decided to attend a meeting convened by UPA in New Delhi on July 14 to decide on the Vice Presidential poll candidate.

"Prime Minister talked to Mamata Banerjee over phone," TMC Rajya Sabha MP Kunal Ghosh told PTI from North Bengal.

Banerjee has asked Railway Minister and her close aide Mukul Roy to attend the July 14 UPA meeting, he said. "It will be after a long gap that Trinamool Congress will be attending a UPA meeting, which is a significant development," he said.

Ghosh, however, said Trinamool Congress has not taken any decision on its stand on the presidential and the vice-presidential elections. "Whatever decision the party takes will be announced", he added.

Trinamool Congress had earlier said Banerjee would announce the party`s decision on the presidential poll three days ahead of the election on July 19. Raja said the CPI leaders conveyed to the Prime Minister that the party`s central secretariat will meet here on July 18 and take a decision on the Vice Presidential elections.

The Prime Minister had last week spoken to Janata Dal- Secular chief H D Deve Gowda and CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat on the issue of Vice Presidential elections.

JD-S spokesperson Danish Ali had said that only Ansari`s name was discussed during the telephonic conversation between the prime minister and Deve Gowda.

Congress has been giving broad hints that Ansari is a frontrunner in the Vice Presidential race. His name appears to have the support of various other parties also. The last date for nomination for the Vice President election is July 20. Congress is also hopeful of NDA ally JD-U`s support for Ansari`s candidature.

Sources in JD-U said there is a strong possibility that the party could support the UPA candidate.
"We had already said that Hamid Ansari and Pranab Mukherjee both are good names for Presidential elections. Now, how can we say that Ansari was good for becoming President but not good for becoming Vice President? Logic says we should support Ansari," a party MP said requesting anonymity.

There is a view in JD-U that UPA has the majority to ensure the victory of its Vice Presidential nominee.

Ansari was the Left`s choice for Vice President last time and they could back him this time as well, a senior JD-U leader said. "We do not have the numbers to ensure that our candidate wins. Generally, President, Vice President and Speaker should be elected unanimously," he added.

JD(U) President Sharad Yadav said the party has not discussed the VP poll issue nor has it been discussed in NDA so far. "We have not taken any decision. We will decide it after discussion," Yadav said.

Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdhary also reacted cautiously over the issue. "We have a number of allies. We will talk to all. So far, no decision has been taken. We are carrying out our responsibility of a coalition partner. They have a view. We will definitely take it in account," Chowdhary said.

She was responding to a question on Trinamool Congress reportedly preferring two names for Vice Presidential election including that of former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi.