Even as the decision of the Congress on its nominee for the upcoming Presidential polls hangs in the balance, West Bengal Minister for Irrigation and a senior leader of the Congress in the State, Manas Bhunia appealed here on Sunday to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the senior leadership of the Trinamool Congress to back Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee for the post.

“The people of West Bengal have a very deep sentiment to have a son of the soil in such an important post. I appeal to the leadership of the Trinamool Congress to also endorse the name of Pranab Mukherjee,” Dr. Bhunia said at a press conference.

While he did believe that the Trinamool Congress's endorsement would carry weight with the Congress high command, Dr. Bhunia said that it was not an attempt to pressurise the final decision.

It is Mamata's right

When it was pointed out that Ms. Banerjee has already mentioned three names — Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, former President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and former West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi — as her preferences for the Presidential nominee, Dr. Bhunia said that she had the right to decide on internal matters of her party.

“In the same way, I too have the right to make this appeal to the Trinamool Congress,” he said.

Repeatedly emphasising that there was a “deep sentiment among the people of West Bengal” in favour of Mr. Mukherjee as President, Dr. Bhunia said that he hoped that “our alliance partner will also come forward in support of this demand.”

Dr. Bhunia said that the State leadership of the Congress, including all MLAs and Ministers in Ms. Banerjee's Council of Ministers, was in favour of Mr. Mukherjee's candidature, “but the decision of the party's high command will certainly be final and binding on all of us.”

On being asked if he will directly speak to the leadership of the Trinamool Congress on the matter, Dr. Bhunia said that his appeal was being “made through the media.”