Even as the Congress leadership continued further consultations on the selection of a Presidential candidate, the Samajwadi Party — the United Progressive Alliance's supporting partner — and the opposition Communist Party of India (Marxist) sought to make it clear that their backing for the Congress nominee should not be taken for granted.
Emphasising that the SP was with the UPA only to “keep communal forces at bay,” party president Mulayam Singh, whose support would be crucial, reiterated that his party would favour a political candidate for the top post, not a bureaucrat.
Refusing to comment on the possibility of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as a UPA candidate, he said the Presidential elections had not been declared yet and there were no names before his party.
“We will decide on whom to support after considering the merits and demerits of the candidate,” he said at a press conference here.
The socialist leader, who had recently dined with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the completion of UPA's three years in power, said his party was a separate entity and not a “follower” of any party or coalition. “We will take our own decision when the time comes.”
Mr. Mulayam Singh declined to divulge the details of his meeting with Trinamool Congress president Mamata Banerjee last month and stressed that no party had contacted them on the issue.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat too made it clear that his party was not bound to support the ruling coalition's Presidential candidate: “We are not bound. We are not part of the alliance of the Congress and the UPA that we have to support anybody they propose.”
He said the Left parties would consult other non-Congress secular parties once the UPA announced its choice.
“The situation was different last time when we backed the UPA's choice of Pratibha Patil, because then we were supporting the government from the outside,” he said in reply to a question.
On Sunday, the central committee authorised the Polit Bureau to formulate the party's strategy on Presidential elections after consultations with other Left and like-minded non-Congress secular parties.
In Mumbai, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Supriya Sule said her party would stand by the UPA in its choice.
The dilemma over the selection of a candidate continues with parties remaining divided over the choice of a suitable nominee. After the Congress Working Committee authorised Sonia Gandhi to decide on a candidate, there has been an effort to reach out to allies with Mr. Mukherjee emerging as a frontrunner for the coveted post.
The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance also maintains that they are awaiting the announcement of the UPA's official candidate before deciding their strategy on the Presidential election.
Meanwhile, the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Biju Janata Dal have declared their support for the former Lok Sabha Speaker and NCP leader, P.A. Sangma, a tribal from Meghalaya.
Asked about AIADMK leader and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's appeal to him to back Mr. Sangma, Mr. Mulayam Singh said “this is not the appropriate time.”
President Pratibha Patil's term ends in the fourth week of July.