Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam’s decision to withdraw from the Presidential race came as a huge shock to Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
This was the second blow in three days after her short-term friend Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav abandoned her to back Pranab. It now seems that the Trinamool Congress chief is running out of options.
The Trinamool Congress on Monday came up with a thinly veiled threat with party leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay saying, “We are with the government but can resign when the time comes.”
After APJ Abdul Kalam himself ruled out his participation in the Presidential race, for Mamata, who was his most vociferous proponent, there was little to do but go back to political brinkmanship. Kalam’s refusal is a big blow and Mamata wrote on Facebook, “Kalam Saheb…I have seen your statement that you are not contesting. This news has hurt us all deeply.”
Having hedged her bets on Kalam, Mamata has already refused to back NCP leader PA Sangma’s Presidential ambitions.
The Congress, meanwhile, is playing it cool. It even reached out by pulling up party general secretary Digvijaya Singh for criticising Mamata’s stand on Pranab.
Congress leader Shakeel Ahmed said, “Mamata Banerjee was, is and will be a close ally of the UPA. I am hopeful that she will take lead in making Pranab Mukherjee victorious in President’s race.”
Mamata Banerjee is now left with few choices. Having said a firm no to Pranab Mukherjee, she can now either abstain from voting or side with the NDA, which also seems political improbable as she then would have to pull the plug on the UPA.