Mamata had said her party and SP will have common strategy on presidential poll
Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday met Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav on arrival from Kolkata to discuss the presidential election.
Earlier in the day, the SP chief received a surprise visitor — BJP leader Jaswant Singh — who came ostensibly to seek his support for his candidature as Vice-President.
With 7 per cent votes in the electoral college in his party's kitty, Mr. Yadav's support is crucial, particularly after Ms. Banerjee's remarks that the two parties would have a common strategy on the poll.
A senior SP leader told The Hindu that the party chief was non-committal on Mr. Jaswant Singh's desire to be the vice-presidential candidate. Election to the office of the Vice-President is scheduled in August.
The meeting between the senior BJP leader and Mr. Yadav triggered speculation if the BJP is testing the waters for a “quid pro quo” with the United Progressive Alliance on the presidential and vice-presidential positions. Highly-placed sources in the party maintained that Mr. Singh came in his individual capacity.
Mr. Yadav remained tight-lipped, the sources said, giving the impression that the SP may not favour a BJP nominee for Vice-President, even if the presidential candidate were to be veteran Congress leader and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
Earlier, the name of BJP ally and Akali Dal leader Parkash Singh Badal was doing the rounds for Vice-President.
It is a convention that if there is consensus on the President's position, then the Vice-President's post goes to an Opposition nominee.
The BJP and NDA have not yet taken a stand on presidential and vice-presidential nominees.
There are indications in political circles that it would be possible to build a consensus on the name of Mr. Mukherjee. Most of the UPA allies have hinted at their willingness to support Mr. Mukherjee, though the Congress is yet to name him as the official candidate. Senior SP leaders hinted that if the Congress were to dither on Mr. Mukherjee, then consensus-building might be difficult.
The party, it is learnt, will favour Mr. Mukherjee, regardless of getting a ‘financial package' for Uttar Pradesh, of the kind that West Bengal is expected to be granted. Mr. Yadav had declared his preference for a presidential candidate with a political background.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav appealed a few weeks ago to the Prime Minister for a package for the State.
Former Lok Sabha Speaker P. A. Sangma has been supported by the AIADMK and the BJD. However, Sharad Pawar's NCP has made it clear it would go along with the official UPA candidate.