6:40 pm: Mulayam Singh strikes the final nail in the coffin. Says he will support Pranab Mukherjee‘s ascent to the post of President and says he had only suggested three alternatives along with Mamata Banerjee.
Given none of the three alternatives were chosen, the Samajwadi Party had decided to back Pranab, Mulayam says.
6:15 pm First words from the man most likely to become the President of India.
“I am deeply honoured on my nomination for the election to the President of India by my party and the UPA too,” Mukherjee says.
Thanking party president Sonia Gandhi for the nomination, he says, “I accept this offer with all humility.”
Mukherjee says that in his long political career spanning the last five decades he has been fortunate to have received the support of his party colleague and of other parties.
“I will again seek their indulgence and support for the next few weeks,” he says.
We have requested to all political parties to lend their support.
When asked who will replace him at the Finance Ministry given his experience, Mukherjee says,”I don’t think I am the depository of all knowledge and expertise.” He says there are others in the party capable of replacing him and one of them happens to be the Prime Minister.
When asked how challenging the post of President will be, Mukherjee says, “Let me first win the election then I can speak on how it is.”
6:00 pm: The Samajwadi Party declares that it will back Pranab Mukherjee for President.
“We will support Pranab Mukherjee for the post of president…We are very happy that UPA has ultimately chosen Pranab Mukherjee as their candidate for the President,” Ram Gopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party tells CNN IBN.
5:50 pm: CNN IBN reports that APJ Abdul Kalam has declared that he has no interest in contesting the presidential poll. However, he has not made any official statement yet.
5:40 pm:: BSP chief Mayawati has said they will support Pranab Mukherjee’s nomination for the post.
“Of all the names that have emerged for the Presidential poll we consider Pranab Mukherjee the best,” Mayawati says.
“We have been supporting the UPA from outside and will continue to do so. Hence we have decided to
support the UPA candidate for President,” she says.
“It is a good thing that UPA has chosen a candidate that our party has always said was the best candidate,” Mayawati says, adding,”I believe he will win by a majority.”
5:30 pm : The BJP says that they will meet to debate on the UPA’s choice for the Presidential polls.
“It would have been better if they had decided without so much acrimony,” Shahnawaz Hussain of the BJP says.
SP leader Mohan Singh is noncommittal about supporting Pranab Mukherjee.
“We were waiting for the UPA to announce their candidate. We will meet soon and our party president will make the annoucement on our future course of action,” Singh says.
5:25 pm: Congress spokeperson Janardhan Dwivedi declares that Pranab Mukherjee will be the candidate for the UPA but does not specify who will be the next Finance Minister.
“As far as I understand all the names under discussion there is no one more suited than Pranab Mukherjee,” he says.
A part of politics for decades Mukherjee had been involved in politics, economics and international affairs, and he is an ideal candidate for the post, Dwivedi says.
“From time to time every political leader at some point has praised the statesmanship of Pranab Mukherjee. Sonia Gandhi has appealed to various political parties and we hope all parties will support his candidature,” he says
He says they are remain hopeful of support from all political quarters for Pranab Mukherjee.
He refuses to comment on who will replace Pranab as Finance Minister and instead says cryptically, “Nature abhors a vaccum when someone leaves a vacancy someone will fill it.”
Dwivedi also refuses to comment on whether they have reached a deal with the Samajwadi Party. “I will not speak about specific individuals and the SP had supported the government earlier and we consider them an ally,” he says.
5:15 pm: Kunal Ghosh, Trinamool Congress MP, says the Bengali sentiment card will not work and they do not plan to support Pranab Mukherjee.
Ghosh says they will stand by Mamata Banerjee‘s decision and would prefer to ‘ekla cholo re’ (walk alone) on the matter of the Presidential polls and rules out any rift between the Samajwadi Party and the TMC.
5:00 pm: West Bengal Congress supporters begin celebrating the nomination of Pranab Mukherjee for the post of President.
4:55 pm: UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi says they have decided to nominate Pranab Mukherjee for the post of President. He has almost five decades of public service and a distinguished career which make him an ideal candidate for the post of President, she says.
“There is broad support for his candidature….UPA appeals to all parties and members of state legislatures to support the candidature of Pranab Mukherjee for the office of President,” Sonia Gandhi says at the UPA meet.
UPA meet ended with bonhomie with DMK’s TR Baalu presenting ceremonial shawls to Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and Pranab Mukherjee. All the other allies applaud Mukherjee being nominated for President. Mukherjee poses for pictures with the UPA’s allies.
4:50 pm: Now that Pranab Mukherjee is almost certain to be the UPA candidate for the post of president here’s how the political parties stand divided on the issue. While the NDA has not disclosed their candidate for the post of president, it’s unlikely they will not support APJ Abdul Kalam.
4:45 pm: CNN IBN reports that Sonia Gandhi has confirmed that Pranab Mukherjee will be the UPA candidate for the post of President.
4:15 pm: The UPA meet on choosing a presidential candidate begins. Pranab Mukherjee also present at the meet but is he to be the alliance’s presidential candidate? All the allies are present at the meeting barring Mamata Banerjee who had declared well in advance that she wouldn’t be present.
3:40 pm: Sonia Gandhi reaches the Prime Minister’s residence for a meeting. After the meeting will be the crucial UPA meet to be held in which the alliance could declare its candidate for the Presidential poll.
3:30 pm: While Mamata Banerjee’s moves may have invited moderate criticism from the Congress in Delhi, the West Bengal Congress is on the warpath and want to withdraw support to the West Bengal state government.
They have reportedly passed a resolution to condemn Mamata for her stand against Pranab Mukherjee and have recommended stepping out of state government. The number of decisions for Congress President Sonia Gandhi to take on the Presidential poll seem to be becoming unending.
3:00 pm: CNN IBN now says that the reason that the NDA wasn’t able to come up with a candidate after their meeting today is due to a split down the middle over supporting former president APJ Abdul Kalam.
The channel also says the UPA meeting will not necessarily throw up a consensus candidate for the Presidential poll. While Pranab Mukherjee remains the front runner, it’s not certain that the allies will support him given that they know Mamata Banerjee won’t support him.
2.36pm: DMK Chief Karunanidhi quips that Abdul Kalam is creating a bad time for the Congress, as the chorus for his candidacy grows. “Kalam means time in Tamil and Kalam is creating a bad time”, he told reporters. Meanwhile Kalam is presently at a lunch meeting with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
2:00 pm: Former Railways Minister and still MP from the Trinamool Congress Dinesh Trivedi also joins the chorus in the Presidential poll and says Mamata Banerjee has violated the ‘dharma’ of a coalition.
“Well if there is coalition ‘dharma’, then one has to abide by the dharma and perhaps not cross the line and go…I am nobody to advise Mamata Banerjee, she is an intelligent person and I am confident she will do whatever is good for the party and the people.But I do feel it would have been nice if she had gone to the UPA meet as it would have been a chance to convince the people,” Trivedi says.
1:30 pm : Will Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee be resigning from the post on 24 June? According to CNN IBN, Congress sources have confirmed that Mukherjee is likely to be the UPA’s candidate in the Presidential poll and will be resigning on 24 June.
The UPA is also meeting this evening reportedly to finalise their candidate for the Presidential poll. It’s unlikely any announcements will be made before that.
12:40 pm: After a crucial NDA meeting senior BJP leader LK Advani said they would prefer to wait and watch the developments in the UPA before deciding on their presidential candidate.
“Today when we met we exchanged some notes and we will continue to watch the developments. If a decision is to be taken by us which can contribute to the sound decision so far as the President is concerned, we will take it later,” he says.
“We will meet again later. We may like to consult with our chief Ministers and call them here for a meeting,” the senior BJP leader said.
“We have decided to be in constant touch with all leaders of non-Congress parties, particularly in the Opposition. We will try to impress on the government that as a result of the confusion, lack of coherence and distrust within the ruling hierarchy our economy has already suffered badly and now because of the manner in which the Presidential election is being handled even the polity can be damaged,” Advani says.
The BJP leader also had strong words of criticism for the UPA alliance for their handling of the Presidential poll.
“I can say that among all the governments have been in power in the country since independence, there has not been a government like this in which there is such a lack of coherence and lack of trust at the highest levels,” he says.
The senior BJP leader was noncommittal about supporting the candidature of former Lok Sabha Speaker PA Sangma, who has the support of AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa and BJD’s Naveen Patnaik.
Saying that he respected Sangma, Advani said he had told Jayalalithaa in his meeting with her yesterday that if the NCP leader was to win, a lot more needed to be done.
“Two Chief Ministers supporting his candidature will not take him very far,” Advani says.
12:20 pm: Mulayam Singh refuses to comment on the speculation that there is any rift between him and Mamata Banerjee over the Presidential candidate.
12: 15 pm : P Chidambaram, Salman Khurshid and Kapil Sibal reach Prime Minister’s residence.
11:35 am: Mamata Banerjee says she is certain that APJ Abdul Kalam will be elected President and denies any rift between her and Mulayam Singh over the issue.
“Whatever response we are getting is good in favour of Kalam-ji and we stick to our three candidates,” Mamata tells reporters before returning to Kolkata.
“Kalam-ji has said he will contest the elections, it is good. We want to congratulate Kalam,” she says adding that he is a man who can make India proud.
“No one should contest against Kalam…I would appeal to all political parties to support him,” she says.
When told that Kalam has said he’s still undecided on contesting the polls, a visibly irritated Mamata tells journalists,”That is wrong information, don’t put Congress words in your mouth. Kalam is our candidate.”
Describing their choice of candidates as a clarion call to all political parties, she denied any rift between her and Mulayam Singh over their choice of candidates.
“Whatever we announced all three candidates we stick to it…This is wrong, why are you blaming Mulayam-ji,” she says when asked about rumours that Mulayam Singh has struck a deal with the Congress and will support their candidate.
Reacting to an SP leader’s comment that Kalam may not be a candidate supported by both parties, the Trinamool Congress chief says, “It is our candidate…it is possible my Hindi is not good but you should forigve me.”
Mamata says that the duo are still together on their choice of Kalam for President and the suggestion was made by Mulayam Singh and she had supported it.
11:25 am: CNN IBN says that the Congress and Samajwadi Party have struck a truce and Mulayam Singh will now back the Congress candidate. However, within minutes they report that Mamata Banerjee says that she still has Mulayam Singh’s support for their candidate.
11:20 am: The crucial NDA meeting begins at BJP leader LK Advani’s residence. The NDA has refrained from putting forward any Presidential candidates of their own so far.
11:15 am : JD (U) Sharad Yadav says the NDA has still not decided on which candidate they will support yet.
11:00 am: Former president APJ Abdul Kalam refuses to comment on the suddent support he has found from Mamata Banerjee and Mulayam Singh to take part in the Presidential polls.
“Many people have contacted me to ask me to be President and I respect it…However, I will take a decision at the right time,” he tells reporters in Patna where he is meeting Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for lunch.
Meanwhile, PA Sangma has also refused to back down from the candidature telling CNN IBN that he has no plans to withdraw his candidature. Sangma has been assured of support from the AIADMK and BJD but hasn’t found mention among other political parties.
“I will be contesting,” he says adding that he will not withdraw from the race even if party chief Sharad Pawar tells him to.
“I have committed to people who have supported me and will not withdraw,” he says.
“As of now I am a candidate sponsored by by two Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu and Orissa,” Sangma says.
According to the NCP leader, APJ Abdul Kalam will contest the Presidential polls only if he has unanimous support, which he is unlikely to get.
Hinting at more candidates being thrown into the fray, Sangma says, “As soon as Congress finalises its candidate you will see announcements from various quarters.”
But given his name has found little mention in the speculation so far, Sangma says “I am confident..Look at my face.”
10:50 am: Is it the end of the road for PA Sangma’s hopes for becoming President?
CNN IBN reports that NCP’s DP Tripathi is meeting with Sangma to ask him to gracefully withdraw from the Presidential election. The channel says Pawar is hoping to persuade Sangma to withdraw from the polls so that they can present a united front while supporting a candidate that the UPA suggests later today.
Pawar had met with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi yesterday to discuss the Presidential polls.
10:20 am: Samajwadi Party’s senior leader Ram Gopal Yadav refuses to comment on Pranab Mukherjee as a presidential candidate but does not rule out parting ways with Mamata Banerjee on the issue.
When asked about Mamata’s statement that the SP would support APJ Abdul Kalam for President he said the Trinamool Congress chief may have only been expressing her own opinion and it did not necessarily mean the Samajwadi Party subscribed to it.
Refusing to comment on why Mamata and Mulayam Singh did not address a press conference after their meeting yesterday, Yadav said only the two leaders could answer that.
He also said there was no question of joining the UPA presently and they would continue to support the government from outside.
“We are not going to be part of the Central government and we don’t want mid-term polls. We don’t want people or the exchequer to be burdened by elections,” Yadav, Samajwadi Party’s General Secretary, said.
10:00 am: NDTV says that Congress is likely to announce Pranab Mukherjee as their Presidential candidate after the crucial UPA meet to be held this evening.
9.40 am: CNN IBN reports that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee will be meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at 12 pm. The reason for the meeting is still a subject of speculation though.
9.33am: CNN IBN quoting Congress sources, are reporting that Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has assured them of his support for their Presidential candidate. Senior Samajawadi Party leaders Ram Gopal Yadav and Naresh Agarwal Samajawadi also reportedly met with Mulayam Singh Yadav this morning, although the nature of the discussions has not been revealed.
Speculation is now rife that the Mamata-Mulayam alliance will not be very long lived.
9.29am: Another round of meetings have been scheduled for today. Pranab Mukherjee will reportedly meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this evening for a brief meeting relating to the Presidential poll.
9.05am: Speculation is rife that the Congress Party will name Pranab Mukherjee as its Presidential candidate after a UPA meet that is scheduled for 4pm this evening. TMC leader Mamata Banerjee has decided to skip the meet and will fly back to Kolkata later this afternoon.
The Congress is reportedly hopeful that they can build consensus around its candidate. There are also reports that the Samajawadi Party may decide to break ranks with the TMC and choose to back the Congress candidate.
The NDA meeting in this regard has been scheduled for 11pm. In other developments from the NDA front, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has invited APJ Abdul Kalam for lunch, and the latter has accepted the invitation.
8.47am:After yesterday’s flurry of talks and developments, it looks like we are set for another interesting day on the political front. A short recap of what happened on Thursday:
* Congress leaders go into a flurry of talks. The day begins with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee meeting Sonia Gandhi at her residence. Home Minister P Chidambaram and Defence Minister AK Antony also join the discussion, along with DMK leader TR Baalu. After the meeting Baalu tells reporters that DMK Chief Karunanidhi has suggested a name for President as well, but refuses to disclose who it is. He does however say that the UPA candidate will be revealed in about a week.
* After a long, resounding silence in the wake of the Mamata-Mulyam bombshell, Congress breaks its silence and rejects the idea that Manmohan Singh should be the President, saying that he cannot be spared from his Prime Ministerial post. Congress spokesman Janardhan Dwivedhi also goes on to reject the other two choices put forward by Mamata Banerjee and Mulayam Singh Yadav and slams Mamata Banerjee for a lack of decorum.
Information and Broadcast Minister Ambika Soni joins in the anti-Mamata chorus, saying that her actions did not make ‘political or ethical sense’.
* Mamata Banerjee refuses to accept that her actions were out of line, saying that she had been given sanction by Sonia Gandhi to reveal the Congress Presidential candidates. She insists that the Congress choices of Pranab Mukherjee and Hamid Ansari were not acceptable to her, and says that if the Congress persists with either of the names, they would vote against the UPA and back APJ Abdul Kalam.
She met Mulayam Singh Yadav in the evening and said firmly that Abdul Kalam was their preferred choice.
* BJP leader LK Advani slams the government for its ‘shoddy handling’ of the Presidential poll, saying that it was a clear indication of the UPA governments policy paralysis. He says that the NDA will be meeting today to decide on a possible candidate, but strongly hints that they could wait until the UPA reveals who its candidate will be.
* Pranab Mukherjee reaches out to Mamata’s bitterest rivals: The CPI(M) in West Bengal and asks it to support the Congress candidate for President.
* Speculation is rife that the Samajawadi Party may still come around to the Congress point of view.