UPA decision on Hamid Ansari today, Mamata Banerjee set to oppose
UPA is likely to announce Hamid Ansari for a second term as vice-president at a meeting of alliance partners on Saturday but all eyes are trained on Trinamool Congress which is likely to oppose the proposal.
The coalition's meeting follows Prime Minister Manmohan Singh contacting key political parties to seek support for Ansari. However, consensus within UPA may not be possible as Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee's emissary Mukul Roy is likely to arrive with a letter spelling out the party stand.
"As a dependable ally, we are attending the meeting. We will express our views clearly with railway minister Mukul Roy representing the Trinamool Congress," the party's Rajya Sabha MP Derek O'Brien said.
If, as expected, Roy spells out Banerjee's reservations over Ansari, the fallout for the UPA could be serious. For one, disagreement over the vice-president will snuff out any remote possibility over supporting former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee for President in the July 19 election.
It can lead to Trinamool abstaining from both the presidential and vice-presidential polls. While this will be damaging enough for UPA, the opposition is waiting in the wings to see if Banerjee could be part of its anti-Congress concert.
TMC is opposed to Ansari because of his proximity to the Left and may suggest an alternate name like Gopal Gandhi. As Congress can hardly accept the TMC suggestion at this stage, a parting of ways over the vice-president's elections seems inevitable. Sources said efforts at a patch up were attempted with a suggestion emanating from the TMC camp that a phone call from Mukherjee to Banerjee might help.
But the Congress veteran remains chary of connecting with the Bengal CM, concerned she might reject his overture. Her very public disapproval of his candidature has left a sour taste. Congress is assured of majority in the electoral college comprising 790 MPs, but another Trinamool dissension in less than a month is sure to stub out any hope in Congress of her continuing with UPA for long.
Congress remains concerned that UPA without Trinamool will be highly dependent on Samajwadi Party and BSP. Political sources said Trinamool's position at Saturday's meeting can impact how the opposition develops.
If BJP ally JD(U) does not again support the Congress nominee, opposition will look to put up a united front although the Left stance is not yet clear. Apprehension over being dependent on SP has been the reason why Congress has been engaged in placating Banerjee despite her criticism of Mukherjee.