July 9: Pranab Mukherjee kept up the pretence of being ready to talk to Mamata Banerjee but chances of the twain meeting looked remote today with the Congress gearing to put up Hamid Ansari for a second term as Vice-President without even informing ally Trinamul Congress.
That the Prime Minister has taken even Prakash Karat and minor players such as H.D. Deve Gowda into confidence but not Mamata suggests the Congress may be counting Trinamul out of its plans for the two upcoming elections.
Deve Gowda yesterday said Manmohan Singh had called him to seek support for Ansari. PTI today quoted CPM general secretary Karat as saying without naming any candidate: “He (Singh) spoke to me about three days ago. He wanted my opinion and I gave my opinion.”
That the Congress is considering Ansari is anyway likely to be seen as a hostile gesture by Mamata, who has already demonstrated her dislike for the Vice-President, who is close to the Left.
Congress managers in Delhi claimed they had “over 60 per cent” of the votes for the August 7 Vice-President election but confirmed that Trinamul’s votes had been left out of the calculation.
“Given Mamata’s current mood, we don’t know what she’ll do. We aren’t counting them,” a senior leader said.
Mukherjee left the door open for Mamata to call him, knowing well she would not —sources close to him almost ruled out his calling her on his own.
“I have already appealed to Mamata seeking her support,” the candidate, who was in Calcutta, said referring to his overtures in media interviews. “So, I am ready to talk to her when she is ready.”
His shuffling of the onus on Mamata drew a sharp reaction from Trinamul, minister Subrata Mukherjee saying: “It is expected that a presidential candidate will approach all the voters. So, Pranabda is expected to phone Mamata if he wants her support.”
The presidential candidate had earlier met Congress and Left lawmakers at the Bengal Assembly, where his back-thumping bonhomie with the communists would have angered Mamata.
Mukherjee thanked the Left for its support while leader of the Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra thanked the candidate for coming down to the Assembly to seek support. CPM member Anisur Rahman gifted Mukherjee an Ashok Chakra-embossed badge; Mishra and Samajwadi MLA Chand Mohammad greeted the veteran with bouquets.