Don't take us for granted, says SP

Prez poll: Congress continues talks with allies to finalise nominee

Though the Election Commission is expected to issue notification for the presidential election in a day or two, the Congress on Monday indicated it was still in consultation with allies and yet to finalise its nominee.

“Consultation with all the allies of United Progressive Alliance is on and a decision will be taken once a consensus is reached,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said, when asked about rumours that Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was the frontrunner for the post.

Congress sources said the party will clinch the choice and announce the name only by this month-end, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is scheduled to return from the G20 summit.

Meanwhile, two key supporters of UPA government — Trinamool Congress  (TMC) and Samajwadi Party — have kept Congress guessing about their crucial support. 

Samajwadi Party, an outside supporter of UPA which has been inching closer to Congress over the last one month, also played its cards close to its chest, refusing to disclose whether it would support a UPA candidate. 

“The situation (in Uttar Pradesh) is bad following the misrule of previous (Mayawati) government... That is why we want maximum financial assistance,” SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav said, adding that Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has already met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in this regard. Indicating that his party’s support cannot be taken for granted, Yadav said the Samajwadi Party will decide on support based on the candidate’s merit.

Meanwhile, the TMC appears to be bargaining hard with the Central government to commit on a financial aid package for West Bengal before the party declare its support in the presidential polls.

However, the Congress denied any link between their aid demand and the presidential polls. 

“You need to segregate the two strands. The state, in financial distress, is reaching out to the central government for certain concessions. It is certainly not a quid pro quo,” said Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari while responding to questions on the meeting of West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra with Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee seeking a special financial package for the state.

TMC chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee told reporters in Kolkata that she was yet to know the outcome of the meeting between Mukherjee and Mitra, which is being seen by many as her bargaining chip to support the UPA’s presidential nominee.

Meanwhile, sources in the Election Commission indicated that the poll notification could be out in a day or two. 

The notification for the last Presidential election was issued on June 13. President Pratibha Patil’s term ends on July 24.

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