Mulayam stirs President election pot
New Delhi, April 22: The Samajwadi Party has begun exploring the chances of putting together a non-Congress, non-BJP coalition in the run-up to the presidential election due in June this year.
Sources claimed that party president Mulayam Singh Yadav had reason to be "optimistic" after a meeting between his emissary and Rajya Sabha MP Kiranmay Nanda and Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee in Calcutta on Tuesday.
"The CM assured me that she will support the candidate who Netaji (Mulayam) declares. She was unambiguous," Nanda told this correspondent.
Although he said it was "premature" to discuss names, Samajwadi sources claimed their first choice was former President A.P.J Abdul Kalam. Kalam, who was scientific adviser to Mulayam when he was defence minister as well as the secretary of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), was proposed as presidential candidate by the Samajwadi boss during the NDA regime.
Then Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee endorsed Kalam's name because elevating a Muslim to Rashtrapati Bhavan was a tactical shield against the campaign by the Congress and the Opposition against the NDA after the 2002 Gujarat communal violence. This time too, if Kalam's name is placed on the table, the BJP and the NDA would approve it without ado, said sources.
Mulayam's next strategy, said the sources, would be to get parties such as the AIADMK, Biju Janata Dal and the Telugu Desam on board.
Samajwadi sources did not sound unnerved about the camaraderie between AIADMK's Jayalalithaa, BJD's Naveen Patnaik and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi during a meeting on the sidelines of the internal security conclave this week.
"One photo-op does not lead to the consolidation of a political alliance. The AIADMK and the BJD have their electoral compulsions that will prevent them from getting too close to the BJP. After all, the BJD had snapped its ties with the BJP before the last Lok Sabha polls," a source said.
In 2007 too, Mulayam had made a tentative attempt to float Kalam's name for another term after the UPA declared Pratibha Patil's candidature. But it made no headway because his numbers had shrunk after the Uttar Pradesh election. BSP chief Mayawati, who cruised to a huge victory, quickly backed Patil and gave the UPA the cushion it sought.
"Things are different this time. We have stepped into the arena from a position of strength," a source claimed, alluding to the Samajwadi's 31 MPs (22 in the Lok Sabha and nine in the Rajya Sabha) and 224 MLAs that make it a formidable force in the electoral college to decide the next President.
The Trinamul has 28 MPs (19 in Lok Sabha and nine in Rajya Sabha) and 184 MLAs. The BJD has 21 MPs (14 in Lok Sabha and seven in Rajya Sabha) and 149 MLAs. The AIADMK has 14 MPs (nine in Lok Sabha and five in Rajya Sabha) and 149 MLAs. The combined numbers of the four parties give them a decisive say in electing Patil's successor.