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Mamata, Mulayam meet before Sonia talks Pranab

The West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday started the process of finalising the name of the UPA's presidential candidate for the upcoming poll for the occupant of the Rashtrapati Bhawan. On her arrival in the national capital, Banerjee went straight into a huddle with the Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. The Trinamool Congress and the Samajwadi Party together hold 1,12,613 votes in the electoral college, which will elect the nation's next president.

The Trinamool Congress and the Samajwadi Party form the biggest block after the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the electoral college. The two together are in a position to decide the outcome of the poll, and the Congress president will not be able to overlook their strength when she meets Banerjee on Wednesday morning. The two political satraps have been holding back-room parleys for a long time. The meeting between Banerjee and Yadav and they later posing for the shutter-bugs together symbolised the success of these parleys.   

Banerjee reached the capital on the request of the Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Banerjee arrived after her emissary the state finance minister Amit Mitra held a round of discussion with his counterpart in the union government Pranab Mukherjee on Monday on a financial package for West Bengal.

Banerjee has been continuously pressurising the central government to accept her demand of a three-year moratorium on loan repayment to the Centre. In order to make the union finance ministry fall in line, Banerjee had floated the name of the Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar as possible nominee a few days back. While Kumar's name did not attract much support, the Congress seemed divided between the current vice president Hamid Ansari and the finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.

With Yadav expressing his preference for a political person rather than a bureaucrat for the top post, the scales now seem to have tilted in the favour of Mukherjee. However, the ball is in the court of the Congress president, on whom lies the responsibility to carry Banerjee along, which may come at the price of giving a financial package to West Bengal.

Meanwhile, sources in the Congress have indicated that Mukherjee's name has nearly been finalised by the party and Gandhi most probably would announce his name as the UPA's candidate after meeting with Banerjee. Mukherjee is understood to have been keenly pursuing the developments around his candidature.
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