The Presidential race gained momentum on Thursday with major UPA constituent Trinamool Congress holding discussions with Congress amidst indications that the party may not have a problem with the candidature of Hamid Ansari or Pranab Mukherjee.

The BJP’s call for a contest and its opposition to Mr. Mukherjee and Mr. Ansari found no takers with the Left parties and JD(U), an important constituent of the opposition NDA formation, making it clear that they would not mind backing any of these candidates and that they were keen on a consensus.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi held discussions on the issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Parliament House this morning in which Mr. Mukherjee also joined.

Asked about “confusion” over names of Presidential candidates, Ms. Gandhi told reporters, “There is no confusion. Be patient, still there is time.”

Ms. Gandhi also met Trinamool Congress chief Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and discussed the issue.

Ms. Banerjee declined to divulge the details of her discussions with Ms, Gandhi but throughout the day in her interactions with media, she kept saying that she would prefer a consensus on the Presidential candidate and it was for the Congress to take a decision on the nominee.

“If this does not evolve, then of course there will be a contest,” Ms. Banerjee told reporters in the Central Hall of Parliament.

Trinamool sources said that Ms. Banerjee is likely to support the UPA candidate if a broad consensus is evolved over the choice.

“Pranab too valuable to lose”

The day also saw some drama when Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury appeared to suggest that Mr. Mukherjee was too “valued” to the party and the government to be spared for the President’s post.

This prompted Ms. Banerjee to remark that Congress has announced that Mr. Mukherjee is not its candidate.

However, the Congress clarified that no name has been finalised and Mr. Mukherjee is not ruled out of the race though he is important for the party, government and the country.

Samajwadi chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, whom Ms. Banerjee met, broke his silence saying the Presidential candidate should be “political”.

Left may support Congress candidate

The Left parties, who were the key players in Mr. Ansari becoming the Vice President in 2007, again indicated that they were averse to either him or Mr. Mukherjee.

To a question on the Left’s stand on probable candidates like Mr. Ansari and Mr. Mukherjee, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury said if the Congress narrowed down its choice to these two names, then the Left would like to see on whose name there is consensus.

“That is the best approach. As far as Ansari is concerned, the Left had proposed his name for Vice Presidentship last time. As far as Mukherjee is concerned, the name was doing rounds last time also and we said we have no objection,” he said.

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