July 14: The Trinamul Congress today claimed after the UPA meeting that it did not know the vice-presidential candidate would be chosen and announced today, suggesting it was turning into an outsider in the alliance.
Railway minister Mukul Roy, Mamata Banerjee’s representative at today’s UPA meeting, said his party had not been told about the agenda.
“We were not aware what would be discussed at the meeting. We were only told there was a UPA coordination committee,” he said, although it was widely known that the meeting had been called to select the candidate.
On her part, Mamata appears to be doing little to repair relations, as evidenced by Roy’s move to suggest two alternative names immediately after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had proposed Hamid Ansari’s candidature.
Roy conceded the party had not spoken to Gopalkrishna Gandhi or Krishna Bose to get their consent before proposing their names, providing further indication that Trinamul’s prime intent was to oppose the Congress.
“We proposed their names because they are good candidates. That does not mean we have talked to them,” Roy said.
Trinamul sources in Calcutta alleged that the Prime Minister had spoken to Mamata only after today’s meeting. “Trinamul is the second largest party in the alliance but we were not consulted. The Congress had already made up its mind on Ansari. This is unacceptable,” a senior leader said.
The sources indicated Mamata could sound out parties outside the UPA to see whether they were willing to support Gandhi.
“If the Congress can appeal to parties outside the UPA to support Pranab Mukherjee (for President) and Ansari, what is wrong with our doing so for a candidate of our choice?” an MP said.
Roy’s decision to revise his schedule and stay back in Delhi too has fuelled speculation whether Trinamul might sound the Opposition out about putting up a candidate against Ansari.
BJP sources did not rule this out, saying the party was working to make a dent in the UPA over the Vice-President’s election just as the ruling alliance had split the NDA over the presidential election.
The BJP core group met today and was learnt to have decided to contest the vice-presidential election. But the party is expected to wait and watch for a while before taking a call on the candidate.
Sources said the party had the option of piggybacking on Mamata if she went ahead and fielded a candidate.
Mamata is expected to call a meeting of her MPs and MLAs early next week to take the final decision on Trinamul’s choices for President and Vice-President.