Alliance stays united

The outcome of the crucial meeting of the MLAs and the MPs of the Trinamool Congress in Kolkata held on Monday evening may sound like music to the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) despite its shrill tone. Though the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee's ministers in the union cabinet offered to quit, they carefully punctuated the statement with 'if forced to do so'.

'We are with the UPA government as of now. Only if they throw us out, we will leave,' said Banerjee, as an anti-climax to her refusal to accept Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature for the president’s post. As for who she would back as president, with her preferred choice A P J Abdul Kalam opting to be out of the fray, she told senior party leaders that she would take a decision at the appropriate time.

When asked to clarify on the issue, the Rajya Sabha MP from the Trinamool Congress Derek O'Brien told the waiting media that the party's point of view had been posted on Banerjee's Facebook page.

The message on Facebook takes cognizance of the former president Kalam's decision to not contest the upcoming presidential poll against Mukherjee. The Facebook message reads, 'Kalam Saheb, you have touched our hearts and our spirit. I have seen your statement that you are not contesting. This news has hurt all of us deeply.'

Having expressed her 'hurt', Banerjee in the remaining part of the message goes to berate the prevailing state of corruption in politics and expresses faith that people will overcome the situation.

The Congress, on the other hand, did its bit to mollify Banerjee by releasing statement that the party general secretary Digvijay Singh 'is not officially authorised to speak on behalf of the party'. The Congress snubbed Singh following the harsh remarks he had made against the West Bengal chief minister. Singh had called Banerjee 'immature' and 'erratic' and suggested that there was a 'limit' to the patience of the party vis-a-vis her. After that, Singh went on a interview-giving spree to television channels, reiterating this point, as if he had a point to prove.

Meanwhile, in Kolkata, Banerjee showed signs of returning to work, as the remaining part of the meeting of the Trinamool MPs and MLAs focussed around the government’s strategy in the West Bengal assembly session. 'Act responsibly. Nurture your constituency. We are now in the government, not in the opposition,' she told her MPs and MLAs. 'The meet was mostly devoted to the party’s strategy in the Assembly session,' confirmed the senior state cabinet minister Subrata Mukherjee.

With the monsoon setting in, there can be floods in various parts of the state, warned the chief minister. 'Go for prompt disaster management with the state government’s help as soon as you get news of any flooding,' she told the elected representatives.


Notwithstanding P A Sangma insisting that he is still in the presidential race, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) expressed confidence on Monday that he would opt out and support the UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee.

'We have full faith in Sangma that he will fulfil the promise of abiding by the party decision and support the UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee in the Presidential Election 2012,' the NCP general secretary D P Tripathi said.

Against his party's decision, Sangma has been pressing for his candidature in the presidential poll on the grounds of being a tribal candidate. Last week, the NCP chief Sharad Pawar had sent an emissary to Sangma with an advise to withdraw from the race.

The party sources said that Sangma could face disciplinary action if he goes ahead with his candidature. They said that his daughter Agatha Sangma, the minister of state for rural development, could be dropped from the union council of ministers.


In a rebuff to Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and BJP, former President A P J Abdul Kalam today announced that he would not contest the Presidential poll against UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee.

Issuing a formal announcement, he said he had taken the decision after considering 'the totality of this matter and the present political situation'.

Kalam, who was propped up by Trinamool as a nominee for the Presidential poll to be held on 19 July, said, 'though I have never aspired to serve another term or shown interest in contesting the elections', Mamata Banerjee and other political parties 'wanted me' to be the candidate.

'Many, many citizens have also expressed the same wish. It only reflects their love and affection for me and the aspiration of the people. I am really overwhelmed by this support,' his statement said.

'This being their wish, I respect it. I want to thank them for the trust they have in me,' he said, adding, 'I have considered the totality of this matter and the present political situation, and decided not to contest the Presidential election 2012.'

After Mamata pushed his candidature, breaking ranks with UPA over the issue, BJP also tried hard to persuade him to contest as Opposition's common candidate against Mukherjee.

BJP leader L K Advani called him thrice and sent his close aide Sudheendra Kulkarni twice to convince him. However, he made clear to Advani that his 'conscience' is not permitting him to contest, sources said.

The former President has been insisting that he could consider entering the fray only if there was surety about his victory.

Several opposition leaders talked to Kalam over phone yesterday to know about his plans.

BJP was more in favour of fielding Kalam than former Lok Sabha Speaker P A Sangma, who is AIADMK Chief J Jayalalithaa and BJD head Naveen Patnaik's choice.

Even JD(U), which wants a consensus for Mukherjee, may support Kalam as he shares a good equation with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
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