June 20: A controversy has been nipped in the bud with sources clarifying that Trinamul MP Kabir Suman had called up Mukherjee and not the other way round as was being portrayed.
Claims that Mukherjee had called Suman, the dissident MP, following which he offered his vote to the Congress veteran had drawn angry remarks from Trinamul.
Congress sources said Suman called up Mukherjee to congratulate him and asked if he could come to Delhi to cast his vote.
A source close to Mukherjee said: “Suman did say that ‘you are the best candidate and should become the President’ but it is wrong to presume that we wanted to break Trinamul. Suman said he did not know the procedure of presidential election and hence wanted to enquire if an MP can vote in his state and in Delhi.”
In Delhi, Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi asked: “Why should we break any party and Trinamul which is our ally?”
Congress sources termed the debate “meaningless”, pointing out the party leadership has been trying to mend fences with Mamata. Besides, MPs and leaders from every party have called Mukherjee to congratulate him over the past few days, they added.
Asked if Mukherjee would meet Mamata during his visit to Calcutta, a Congress leader said: “The meeting has to be fixed first. This requires Mamata’s readiness along with Mukherjee’s desire. One person cannot decide to have a meeting.”
Mukherjee had called up several leaders cutting across party lines, including some NDA chief ministers, in different states.
Sources said Mukherjee, who met Sonia Gandhi today, spoke to CPM leader Prakash Karat and sought support. The Left parties are meeting tomorrow to chalk out their strategy. Sources said Mukherjee also called up PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti who offered her party’s support to his candidature.
The Mukherjee camp has become more cautious after the controversy revolving around Suman. But Congress sources said a presidential candidate would have to appeal for the vote of every voter as has been the tradition.
A Congress leader said: “Mukherjee is preparing a letter which will be sent to every MLA and MP in the country. There is nothing wrong in it and it cannot be viewed as inducing defection as no MP or MLA is bound by the party whip in this election.”
Another leader said that “Mukherjee is taking care to quit the Union cabinet. He will also resign as the primary member of the Congress before filing his nomination. All these will happen because he will be the President of India and not of the Congress. So, no party or leader should view his campaign as an attempt to engineer defection.”