Pranab is UPA candidate
Gandhi, while reading out from a statement, mentioned that Mukherjee possessed a long and distinguished record of public service, spanning over five decades. She said, 'There is broad support for his candidature. The UPA appeals to all the political parties and all MPs and MLAs to support the candidature of Mukherjee for the office of president.' Thereafter, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called up the senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L K Advani, its president Nitin Gadkari and the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, aprising them of the decision to nominate Mukherjee.
Reacting to the nomination, the BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said that it would have been better if the name was announced after due consultation with the opposition parties. 'The BJP would discuss with allies before taking a decision to support or oppose UPA candidate,' Hussain said.
Incidentally Mukherjee's name was first mentioned publicly by the West Bengal chief minister after her meeting with Gandhi on Wednesday. However, within hours Banerjee, in the company of Yadav, addressed the media and surprised all by announcing Kalam as her choice for the job. Thereafter followed highly engaging political negotiations before Mukherjee's name was announced.
With support of the Samajwadi Party and the BSP assured, the UPA is comfortably placed to sail through the presidential election smoothly.
MILLENNIUM POST NEWS BREAK
On 9 June, Millennium Post broke the story that the Congress would decide about its candidate for the president’s post on 15 June. We also told the reader that the Congress had almost made up its mind on Pranab Mukherjee. With the hectic developments of the last few days culminating in the nomination of Mukherjee as the UPA candidate, our story has played itself out.
HOW FRIDAY BECAME PRANAB'S
Millennium Post was the first newspaper to report in its 9 June edition that Congress President Sonia Gandhi was all set to announce United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA) presidential candidate on 15 June, and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was the front-runner.
On Friday, 15 June, Sonia did declare Mukherjee’s name as the UPA candidate for the presidential polls. Sonia made the announcement during the crucial UPA meet held at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s 7, Race Course Road residence. In a statement issued by the party, it was highlighted that Pranab has a long and distinguished record and a broad support for his candidature. Soon after Sonia’s announcement, the Samajwadi Party came out in support of Mukherjee’s name. SP’s General Secretary Ram Gopal Yadav said: ‘I am very happy that Pranabda has been finally nominated as the candidate for the biggest office. The party supports him and wishes him well for the victory.’
In an unlikely move, even Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati came out in support of Mukherjee as presidential candidate. While addressing a press conference in Lucknow, she mentioned, ‘Among all the names that have been proposed for the post of President, Pranab Mukherjee is the most suitable and serious candidate. Congress president Sonia Gandhi spoke to me about his candidature and my party will support his name.’
Even the Left came out and congratulated Mukherjee, but asserted that their stand on this issue would be decided during an internal meeting. Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Brinda Karat said: ‘We congratulate Pranab Mukherjee for the nomination but we shall decide our stand post meeting.’
Earlier, on Friday, confusion prevailed over the SP and the Trinamool Congress’ agreement on former president Abdul Kalam’s name for the post.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, while addressing the media outside her residence, said in the morning that both she and Mulayam would back Kalam. But soon after Sonia announced Mukherjee’s name, SP changed their stance and came out in support of UPA’s candidate, and Kalam remained solely Banerjee’s choice.
WHAT HAPPENED WHEN ON FRIDAY
- 11 am: The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) meet begins as senior NDA leaders Sushma Swaraj, Jaswant Singh, Subramanian Swamy arrive at LK Advani’s residence
- 11.35 am: West Bengal chief minister Mamta Banerjee addresses the media outside her residence. Says SP chief Mulayam Yadav and she are still together and Kalam is their choice. She also appeals to all political parties to support Kalam
- 12.05 pm: NCP Leader PA Sangma claims NDA support; ‘I am still in the presidential race. I have support of NDA,’ he says
- 12.15 pm: No consensus in NDA on Kalam; BJP and JD(U) differ on Kalam
- 12.20 pm: Mamata skips UPA meet at 7, RCR, leaves for Kolkata
- 2:55 PM: Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar meets Kalam in Patna
- 2:56 PM: NDA meet indecisive due to differences over supporting Kalam; Janata Dal (United) Sharad Yadav objects to supporting Kalam. Sources say there is no unanimity within the JD(U) on whether Kalam should be supported or not.
- 4 pm: Congress president Sonia Gandhi Pranab Mukherjee reach Manmohan Singh’s residence to attend UPA meet
- 4:47 PM: Sonia announces Pranab Mukherjee as UPA nominee
- 4:56 PM: Sonia appeals to all political parties to support Pranab
- 5:18 PM: Trinamool Congress is not going to change its stand on Pranab: Kunal Ghosh, TMC, MP
- 5:20 pm: Samajwadi Party announced its support for Pranab
- 5.25 pm: The Left congratulates Pranab, but says party stand will be decided during their meeting
- 5.30 pm: The BJP says though it was not consulted by the UPA before they declared their candidate, it will meet allies and decide on supporting Pranab
- 5.35 pm: RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav backs Pranab as the Presidential candidate, reiterating he always said he would go with Sonia’s choice
- 5.38 pm: Addressing a press conference in Lucknow, Mayawati announces her support for Pranab
- 5.51 pm: Manmohan Singh speaks to AB Bardhan, Mayawati, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley
- 6.12 pm: Pranab says he is deeply honoured to be nominated for the Presidential poll, and thanks Sonia; he says they have requested all political parties for their support, expressing confidence in his party members
- 6.38 pm: Mulayam Singh says the three names he gave along with Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee were only suggestions; declares his support for Pranab, calling him a man of high stature
- 6.46 pm: DMK chief M Karunanidhi writes to Sonia expressing happiness at the selection of Pranab
- 7.35 pm: Pranab Mukherjee appeals to all political parties to support his candidature for the Presidential poll
- 8.45 pm: After her meeting with close aides, Mamata says she will speak on the Presidential poll on Saturday
NOMINATION TO BLUNT OPPOSITION ASSAULT
By Sidharth Mishra
The nomination of the finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, 77, as the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) candidate for the Rashtrapati Bhawan is the first correct political decision which the beleaguered conglomeration has taken in its present tenure. The West Bengal politician – it goes without saying – is a formidable name and the opposition will find it difficult to oppose his candidature as bitterly as they did in the case of the outgoing president Pratibha Devisingh Patil.
After all, the senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L K Advani, in 2009, had proferred encomiums on Mukherjee on the floor of the Lok Sabha, wondering how the UPA government would have functioned without the services of the veteran politician. Mukherjee’s talent, acumen, expertise, zeal and tact have been repeatedly put to test to defend the survival of the government headed by a person who contributes the least to its running.
Personally for Mukherjee, the nomination comes as the high point of his career, as it also consigns to dustbin of history the incident of October 1984, which for long made him suspect in his loyalty to the Congress’ first family. However, some would point to Gandhi’s sagacity which made her overlook the distrust her late husband Rajiv Gandhi had for the Bengal veteran.
Mukherjee is known to weather political storms, like the one which was raised by the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee before his nomination. Mukherjee was initiated into politics by the Congress veteran Ajoy Mukherjee, who broke ranks to form the Bangla Congress and joined hands with the Communists to give West Bengal its first non-Congress government. Pranab Mukherjee’s elevation to the Rajya Sabha for the first time in 1969 was a fallout of the political turmoil which had then engulfed West Bengal.
On coming to Delhi, Mukherjee used the opportunity to get into the inner circles of the then prime minister Indira Gandhi, first becoming a deputy minister in 1973 and then rising to become the finance minister under her in 1982. He survived the ignominy of exclusion from the government under Rajiv Gandhi in 1984 to return much stronger under P V Narasimha Rao in 1991. Thereafter, he served both the party and the government with such élan, both as a negotiator and administrator, that he became an indispensable fixture for the survival of the UPA.