Rejects reports of his striking a “deal” with UPA government
Indicating that a consensus should be evolved among political parties on Pranab Mukherjee as the next President, Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh has said that he wanted the President to be elected unopposed.
Addressing party workers at the SP headquarters here on Saturday, Mr. Singh defended his decision to support the candidature of the Finance Minister and described him as a “capable, secular and learned leader.”
Mr. Singh said the office of the President was a Constitutional post and the incumbent did not belong to any party.
He rejected reports of his striking a “deal” with the UPA government. The Samajwadi Party's decision was announced by general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav in Delhi on Friday, shortly after Mr. Mukherjee's name was officially announced by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
When the party's decision was being announced by Mr. Yadav, Mr. Singh was on a personal visit to Agra and returned to Lucknow late on Friday evening.
Mr. Singh's decision to support the UPA candidate took political analysts by surprise as the SP chief in the company of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee floated the names of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Somnath Chatterjee, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday.
Setting the record straight, the former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister told reporters that the three names were “suggested” only when it appeared that the Congress was diffident on naming Mr. Mukherjee as the presidential candidate. Mr. Singh said he had met Ms. Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday evening.
Mr. Singh's arch political rival and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati on Friday slammed him for his “flip-flop” after suggesting three names and then within 48 hours deciding to support the UPA candidate. Ms. Mayawati alleged that securing an economic package for the Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh could be a reason for Mr. Singh's decision to support Mr. Mukherjee.