Prez poll: Pranab in Kolkata, TMC calls him 'Maoists' friend'

Kolkata: UPA presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee was given a rousing welcome by Congress leaders as he arrived here to seek the support of parties from West Bengal and meet legislators supporting him.

All the Congress legislators and state Congress leaders were present at the Kolkata airport to receive Mukherjee, who is on a countrywide tour to seek support for the presidential election.

Mukherjee was welcomed with a life-size garland and flower petals were showered on him as the entire airport area echoed with the slogans of "Pranab Mukherjee Zindabad" and "Pranabda Zindabad".

UPA Presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee waves on his arrival at NSCBI Airport in Kolkata on Sunday. PTI

"Today I have come to Kolkata. Tomorrow (Monday) I will hold a meeting with the MLAs (legislators) of Congress, CPI-M and Forward Bloc inside the premises of state assembly. Then I will talk to the media persons," Mukherjee told reporters.

Ruling party Trinamool, the second largest constituent of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), is yet to take a stand on the presidential election after its preferred candidate, former president APJ Abdul Kalam, declined to contest.

But Banerjee has so far opposed Mukherjee's bid for the top post. She is said to have told her aides that she would decide her stand two or three days before the 19 July vote.

In an indication of hardening stand, Trinamool leader Subrata Mukherjee on Sunday said Mukherjee has been a close friend of the Communists throughout his life.

Mukhherjee is pitted against former Lok Sabha speaker PA Sangma, who has the support of the Bharatiya Janata Party and some National Democratic Alliance constituents besides the AIADMK and Biju Janata Dal.

The electoral arithmetic seems to be favouring Mukherjee with all the UPA constituents except Trinamool rooting for him. Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Communist Party of India-Marxist, All India Forward Bloc, Janata Dal-United and Shiv Sena have also expressed theirsupport.

A Trinamool Congress leader told PTI, that UPA presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee had all along been a "close friend" of the Marxists from the beginning of his political career to its end.

Subrata Mukherjee, West Bengal panchayet minister and an important TMC leader, said, "When Pranab babu began his political career in Bangla Congress in the 1960s, he was helped by the Marxists and remained a friend of the CPI-M even in the middle of his career."

"And now, when he is leaving party politics, he is again receiving help from the Left parties. He has been a very close friend of the CPI-M all through his life," he said.

Agencies

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