KOLKATA: In yet another twist in the already dramatic Presidential polls, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee did a U-turn, saying that she will support United Progressive Alliance (UPA) candidate Pranab Mukherjee for the post of the President of India.
The TMC chief said that supporting Pranab Mukherjee's candidature is a 'painful decision' but she will do it as she 'does not want to waste votes'.
"We are unhappy, but we have taken the decision for the sake of people. We had no options, but to vote for Pranab. I have talked to Prime Minister and Pranab Mukherjee on the phone, Mamata said.
"There was no option, but to vote for Pranab Mukherjee. If we don't vote, it will be a waste. We wanted Kalam as President, but many people did not want it," Mamata added.
She said that the Presidential polls have split all the political parties: the United Progressive Alliance, the National Democratic Alliance and the Left.
The chief minister said she has already informed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of her party's decision. "I told him you would be happy to know that we have decided to vote for Pranab Mukherjee."
"It is our unanimous decision. In the interest of the people, democracy ... we have decided to vote for him. Taking the decision was tough. Had (former president) A.P.J Kalam agreed to be in the race, we would have supported him. Nobody forced my hand. I have not taken my decision by bowing down to any pressure," she said.
She also said that Trinamool Congress will decide later on its stand on Vice Presidential candidate.
Mamata was in favour of former President APJ Abdul Kalam for the top post but he opted out of the race at the last minute.
Earlier in June, the Trinamool Congress chief had stunned everyone by announcing three new names, including that of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as her and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav's preferences for the presidency.
Mamata who met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to discuss the presidential candidate, was the one who made the announcement that the then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was the first choice of the Congress for the president's post followed by Vice President Hamid Ansari.
Pranab is pitted against former Lok Sabha speaker P.A. Sangma, who has the support of the Bharatiya Janata Party and some National Democratic Alliance constituents besides the AIADMK and the Biju Janata Dal.
The electoral arithmetic seems to be favouring Pranab with all the UPA constituents except Trinamool rooting for him. The Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, Communist Party of India-Marxist, All India Forward Bloc, Janata Dal-United and Shiv Sena have also expressed their support for him.
According to government sources, Mukherjee has around 7 lakh 35 thousand votes against Sangma's 3 lakh and 13 thousand, of the total 10 lakh and 97 thousand votes in the electoral college of MPs and state legislators.
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