India Politics
UPA-BSP could jointly back Congress candidate for president
May 11, 2007 - 8:12:05 PM

New Delhi, May 11 - The victory of Bahujan Samaj Party - in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections has come as a shot in the arm for the Congress party, which is being cornered by the Left, particularly on the question of the impending presidential elections.

The poor showing of the Congress, notwithstanding the Herculean effort put in by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her MP son Rahul Gandhi in the election campaign, has helped the Congress in respect of the presidential elections, particularly when it came to choosing between a Left candidate, reportedly Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, against a Congress-United Progressive Alliance - candidate.

Among the names doing the rounds for a possible Congress candidate are Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

With the BSP winning clear majority in the Uttar Pradesh assembly, its decision will be crucial for the presidential elections as the state has the largest number of votes in the electoral college.

Although the BSP is not in the UPA, it supports Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from the outside and is expected to back the UPA candidate for the top post.

The Congress leaders have also indicated that they will not risk their candidate but ensure the entire UPA support, before fielding one. Congress leaders hope that Mayawati would not refuse support to their candidate.

Till the Uttar Pradesh results, the situation was very fluid.

In the days preceding the Uttar Pradesh results, those hoping for a Leftist president were banking on a contest between a Bharatiya Janata Party - candidate, reportedly Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, against a combined Left-UPA candidate.

The central committee of the Communist Party of India-Marxist - recently discussed the subject but decided to wait for the Uttar Pradesh results to take a final view. CPI-M insiders also said that while no names were discussed, the CPI-M had no one else in mind than Somnath Chatterjee.

Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh had announced his willingness to support a CPI-M candidate for president-ship. So did CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan.

The CPI-M has been banking on many 'secular' parties like the SP, Telugu Desam Party, the Asom Gana Parishad and perhaps even former Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalitha's AIADMK to back a CPI-M candidate.

The sweeping victory of Mayawati has made 'a world of difference', said a Congress leader. 'Surely our stock has gone up on presidential elections,' said a senior Congress leader.

'We will consult all the UPA partners and others supporting us and also the Left before we finally decide on our candidate.'

Asked if it could be Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, a Congress leader said, 'Why not, but we will consult all our allies in the UPA and only then finalise.'

But sources said Shinde, who is a Dalit, stands a brighter chance now because if he were to be projected by the Congress-UPA, then the BSP's support is almost certain, and this may eventually cast the dice in his favour.

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