On 12/6/2012 Election Commission announced the dates for presidential election. Strange are the ways of Election Commission. They announce elections for Legislative Assemblies six months before the expiry of the term and club various state elections together though announcement before 40 days is enough and clubbing elections together is not necessary and right. In case of presidential election the law provides for announcement 60 days before the expiry of the term and Election Commission announced the dates 43 days before the expiry of the term. Soon there will be vacancy of vice president but Election Commission has not clubbed together elections of president and vice president. S. Y. Qureshi was CEC when 60 days were left i.e., on 25/5/2012. He should have announced the election but did not do so and retired on 10/6/2012. Perhaps he was waiting for Congress to announce its candidate. On 11/6/2012 V. S. Sampath became CEC and next day at 5.30 p.m. he announced the election.
Events moved fast soon afterwards. Mamata Banerjee came to Delhi and met Sonia Gandhi. TV channels speculated that Mamata will propose the names of Gopal Gandhi, Abdul Kalam and Meira Kumar to Sonia. After the meeting she said Sonia Gandhi’s first choice for president is Pranab Mukherjee, second choice is Hamid Ansari. Then she went to meet Mulayam Singh Yadav. Mulayam had said he did not want a bureaucrat as a president. It was presumed that both will agree to Pranab Mukherjee.
The press conference that followed shocked and surprised people. Mamata and Mulayam did not agree to Sonia’s candidates. They wanted Abdul Kalam, Manmohan Singh and Somnath Chatterjee. Soon conspiracy theories floated. Jayanto Ghosal of Anand Bazar Patrika group said it was planned by Sonia. She did not want Pranab as president but did not want to say no. She used Mamata and Mulayam to do that.
Mamata was not in favour of Pranab. When people spoke of Pranab as son of Bengal she said he was the son of the world.
There was speculation over why the three names were proposed. Somnath Chatterjee’s name was proposed because he was a Bengali. While Mamata did not want Pranab she was not opposed to a Bengali becoming president and Somnath’s name was a balancing act. Some said real name is Manmohan Singh, other two are dummies. Sonia wants Manmohan to become president so that she can have a new prime minister.
On 14/6/2012 Congress spokesperson Janardan Dwivedi said “We cannot afford to spare Dr. Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister. The other two names are not acceptable. During UPA II, we have already said he will remain Prime Minister till 2014. The Congress does not take such a step in between.”
In the evening Mamata met Mulayam. She announced Abdul Kalam is “our candidate”. Mulayam was not with her. She said she will not take part in UPA meeting on 15/6/2012. There were reports that Abdul Kalam was Mamata’s candidate, SP had not taken a decision.
Subramanian Swamy claimed he and Jaswant Singh had worked for Abdul Kalam’s candidature. They had got support for him from BJP and SP. Jaswant Singh had met Mulayam and the impression was that he wanted Mulayam’s support to become vice president. There was talk of DMK supporting Kalam because he is a Tamilian but that did not happen.
On 15/6/2012 UPA met at 4 p.m. at 7 Race Course Road. All parties agreed on Pranab Mukherjee as candidate. Sonia Gandhi announced his candidature and appealed to all parties to support him. Soon SP announced support to Pranab. Mulayam did two somersaults within 48 hours. First he ditched Congress. Then he supported Congress. He said in politics decisions change as per situation. The three names were suggestions.
NDA and Left Front have to decide about the candidates. If BJP decides to support Pranab it is an embarrassment to Sushma Swaraj. Gurudas Dasgupta had said CPI will not support Congress candidate.
Purno Albert Sangma had announced his candidature in the middle of May, backed by AIADMK and BJD. Sangma presented himself as a tribal candidate. There had been Muslim, Sikh, Dalit and woman presidents and it was time for a tribal president. His supporters added that he is a Christian and from North East. In 1992 George Gilbert Swell was a candidate. He was a tribal, a Christian and from North East. Like Sangma he was from Meghalaya. That time Sangma did not support him. NCP does not want Sangma to contest and may expel him if he does.
Abdul Kalam had said he would contest if he was sure of winning. He wanted unanimity or consensus or at least 60% of votes. JD(U) was not in favour of him. It is unlikely he will contest. It is wrong for Congress to appeal to Abdul Kalam not to contest. Kalam can also ask Pranab not to contest.
Mamata is isolated. She did not get her package for Bengal. UPA rejected her nominees. Pranab is candidate. She said the game is not over yet. Today is the beginning. Wait for tomorrow.
Pranab’s candidature saw many ups and downs during the last two months. Some said he was too valuable for Congress to lose. The counter to that if he is so valuable he should be prime minister. During CWC meeting he moved resolution authorizing Congress president to decide about president and vice president and some thought it was over for him. Suddenly some remembered Congress tradition was to promote its vice presidents as presidents. They forgot Hamid Ansari was a Left Front nominee. When Mamata and Mulayam vetoed him name it appeared it was all over for him. But he had supporters in many parties and won the nomination.
There is time till 30/6/2012 for nominations. More candidates can emerge.