He is a "scholar" and "most suited" to the high office of President, says SP supremo

In less than 48 hours the Samajwadi Party did a volte face on its choice of Presidential candidate and declared its whole-hearted support to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee after his name was officially endorsed by the United Progressive Alliance, party president Mulayam Singh Yadav declined to explain his position vis-à-vis Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, with whom he, on Wednesday, jointly announced a list of three Presidential probables, comprising the former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the former Lok Sabha Speaker, Somnath Chatterjee.

“In politics, such questions are useless. As new situation emerges, decisions are taken,” he told journalists.

Declaring his unequivocal support to Mr. Mukherjee, Mr. Yadav said the Finance Minister was a “scholar” and “most suited” to the high office of President.

Mr. Yadav's endorsement came after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi spoke to him following the UPA meeting that approved Mr. Mukherjee's candidature.

Earlier, even as the party leadership was involved in backchannel talks with the Congress, Samajwadi Party general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav went public with an assertion that the party will not join the UPA and that it did not want to impose mid-term polls.

The SP extends outside support to the UPA.

The situation is akin to the one in 2009 when the SP broke away from the newly-formed United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) and the Left parties to bail out the UPA government on the India-U.S. nuclear deal.

After the Left parties withdrew their outside support to the UPA in its first term, the SP formed the UNPA but almost at the last moment, Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav decided to side with the government, saying the nuclear deal was important for the country.

This time round, Mr. Yadav himself declared three alternative names as his and the Trinamool's choice for President, but within 24 hours he refused to stand by Ms. Banerjee when she declared that Mr. Kalam was their preferred choice.

Game-changer

Party sources claim the SP has been a game-changer by forcing the Congress hand in declaring his candidature. They further claim that Ms. Banerjee did an even greater service to Mr. Mukherjee by revealing that the Congress was exploring possibilities about two candidates — Mr. Mukherjee and Vice-President Hamid Ansari — showing that the party was not serious about Mr. Mukherjee.

In between the two positions lay the SP's expectations for the UPA's help in dealing with Mr. Yadav's disproportionate assets case and the Trinamool's seeking of financial relief for West Bengal.

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