NEW DELHI, June 13 � The Presidential race took a dramatic twist today with the Congress declaring Pranab Mukherjee as their preferred choice but two key allies, TMC and SP, came out with a surprise response by suggesting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh�s name.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi informed TMC leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee that her party�s first choice for Rashtrapati Bhawan was the Union Finance Minister. When Mamata pressed for a second Congress choice Gandhi mentioned Vice-President Hamid Ansari�s name.
It was the West Bengal leader, in the capital at the invitation of Gandhi, who disclosed the Congress choices to the media, ending weeks of guessing game.
A bigger surprise came immediately thereafter when Mamata and SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav disclosed the names of Singh, former President APJ Abdul Kalam and former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee as their preferred candidates. Anyone of them would be acceptable to them if there was a consensus.
This dramatic turn of events left the Presidential race wide open and put the Congress in a dilemma. The party needs the support of both TMC and SP to ensure that its candidate wins.
Other allies such as DMK, NCP, RLD and NC have already indicated their support for Pranab Mukherjee.
By proposing the Prime Minister�s name, Mamata and Mulayam may have caused embarrassment to the Congress as some political observers interpret this move as a loss of confidence in him.
These sudden twists and turns created a flutter among political parties which were trying to make out what the implications are for the Presidential poll and beyond on the political alignments.
NCP leader Sharad Pawar reacted to the TMC-SP move saying all the parties in the UPA would have to sit and consider the situation and evolve a consensus on the Presidential candidate.
Earlier, Mamata met Gandhi for about 30 minutes and discussed the Presidential candidate.
�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. � PTI