Presidential candidate P.A. Sangma and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee in Calcutta on Tuesday. (PTI)
Calcutta, June 26: President-aspirant P.A. Sangma today left Writers’ Buildings with hope instead of a firm assurance of support after meeting Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
“I am going back with a lot of hope for the President’s election from the Trinamul Congress and Mamata Banerjee. In 2004, when I quit the NCP, Mamata-di had supported me. I expect she would help me this time also,” Sangma said before leaving the state secretariat.
Sources said inside the chief minister’s chamber, Sangma spent nearly 30 minutes seeking her support for the July 19 election.
Ever since Mamata made it clear that she would not support Pranab Mukherjee, the Congress candidate, Sangma has been banking on getting Mamata by his side.
“I came here to request her to support my candidature in the President’s election. Bhalo alochona hoyechhe (We had constructive talks). I am very happy with the outcome,” Sangma said. Trinamul insiders said the chances of Mamata supporting Sangma’s candidature were few and far between because of three key factors —BJP’s support for the former NCP leader, CPM’s tactical move of supporting Mukherjee and apprehensions about cross-voting by Trinamul MPs and MLAs.
“As of now, abstention seems to be the strategy,” a Trinamul MP told The Telegraph. “Our chief minister has been championing the cause of minorities and she has managed to win them over from CPM. In such a scenario, if Trinamul is seen voting along side BJP, it would send a wrong signal before the panchayat polls,” he added.
Mamata tried to play a key role in the presidential election and pitched hard to ensure a second stint for former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam at the Rashtrapati Bhawan. The plan died an early death as Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav broke out of the new axis of power.
According to a senior Trinamul leader, Mamata cannot rush to a decision after the emergence of Mukherjee as the most likely occupant of Rashtrapati Bhavan. Mukherjee has not just got the support of NDA allies Janta Dal (United) and Shiv Sena, he has also won over CPM and Forward Bloc.
“She is aware that she may be charged with scuttling the possibility of a fellow-Bengali becoming the country’s President if her party votes against Mukherjee,” said the leader.
The third factor that may prevent Mamata from supporting Sangma is her apprehension about cross voting by some party MPs and MLAs, said a source.
The parties cannot issue a whip for the July 19 presidential election. As MPs and MLAs cast votes through secret ballots, it is not possible to identify those voting against the party line.
“She is aware that some MPs and MLAs may cast their votes in favour of Mukherjee… It is unlikely that she will take such a chance and let the world know about her failure in keeping the flock together,” said a Trinamul MLA.
It could not be confirmed whether the constraints facing Mamata came up for discussion during her meeting with Sangma, where railway minister Mukul Roy and party MP Subrata Bakshi were also present.
Sources, however, said that Sangma made a valiant attempt to win over Mamata by criticising Mukherjee, whom he has publicly described as candidate of corporate India and the man responsible for the country’s economic mess.
Mamata, however, was non-committal and Roy explained the party’s stand at a joint news conference with Sangma. “There is time and we are in no hurry. He wants Trinamul Congress’ support. We will discuss this within the party and then announce our decision,” Roy said.