Pranab 1st choice of Cong, Ansari 2nd: Mamata
New Delhi: Ending days of suspense, Congress President Sonia Gandhi today made it clear that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was her first choice for Presidentship and Vice President Hamid Ansari was also in the reckoning.
Gandhi revealed her mind to Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee who gave no commitment of her party`s support, saying that she would convey her position after discussions with Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and her own party. "We had detailed discussions…. Soniaji told me that she had held meetings with two-four allies and her first choice (for Presidentship) is Pranab Mukherjee and second choice is Hamid Ansari," Banerjee told reporters after her 30-minute meeting with Gandhi.
The West Bengal Chief Minister said she told Gandhi that "at the moment, I cannot say anything. We need to discuss with Mulayam Singh and my own party. Then only we can say something." Banerjee, whose party is a crucial constituent of the UPA, later met Yadav for the second time since last evening.
The Trinamool chief and Yadav are apparently coordinating their efforts to extract financial packages for West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. However, prior to her meeting with the Congress chief, Banerjee insisted that her demand for a three-year moratorium on payment of interest on central loans was not linked to her party`s support to the UPA nominee in the Presidential polls.
"No, no, no. Support (to UPA in Presidential polls) is not linked to financial package to the state. Both are two different things," she told reporters. "Whenever I come to Delhi, these kind of rumours and gossips are planted by some quarters. These are plantations. Plantations not of trees but plantation of rumours," she said, adding "I condemn this circulation of rumours," the Trinamool Congress chief said.
Banerjee said West Bengal was in a precarious situation financially due to the policies pursued by the previous Left Front government and hence she had sought a moratorium on payment of interest for three years. She said the demand for moratorium was a year-old and not linked to the Presidential polls.
"I have sought a moratorium on payment of interest (on Central loans) for three years and this debt burden is not my creation. Unless there is a moratorium, how will we run the government," she said. "Whatever the state earns goes in repayment of interest. It is a very precarious situation. Please don`t link it with Presidential elections," Banerjee said.
Sources in Samajwadi Party said its leadership was inclined to support candidature of Mukherjee for the next President. Yadav is understood to have told party MPs recently that he personally would prefer Mukherjee but a final decision could only be taken after Congress officially comes up with a name.