Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee has declared her support to UPA nominees Pranab Mukherjee and Hamid Ansari for president and vice-president in a stunning climbdown which exposed the limits of her gunboat politics and can boost the UPA’s morale.
The changed stance on Ansari may appear ironical, considering that it was her opposition to the vice-president’s elevation to Rashtrapati Bhawan on grounds of his links to Left which helped Mukherjee’s aspirations.
The U-turn over Mukherjee was brought out by a combination of factors ranging from fear of desertions from Trinamool in Mukherjee’s favour to the fear of annoying Bengali sentiment raring to see the first-ever ‘bhadralok’ occupy Rashrapati Bhawan. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s painstaking diplomacy to bring her around, lingering hopes of financial assistance from the Centre and, perhaps the desire to prevent the Left from exploiting a rift with UPA were other drivers.
Each of these considerations are weighty, but this marked the first instance where she ended up acquiescing in the UPA’s choice.
Her forced somersaults also highlighted how the Trinamool boss, a leader with an undeniable mass base, got trumped in the intrigues of the Delhi Durbar by overplaying her hand.
Talking to reporters, Banerjee made no bones of the fact that she was having to swallow a bitter pill, citing the litany of her grievances against Mukherjee.
The Trinamool chief turned sentimental while saying she hadn’t received a single call from Mukherjee, although the PM and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi had spoken to her on the phone for garnering support for him.
With PM Manmohan Singh’s backstage networking securing TMC’s support for Pranab Mukherjee, the UPA is suddenly looking better than it has in the past few months when it reeled under corruption charges and coalition pressures. A persistent PM ensured Mamata fell in line eventually, turning the tables on the ally that has driven a hard bargain so far on several issues. The assured victory in the presidential and vice-presidential polls has come as a morale-booster to the UPA, while the NDA, after months of govt-bashing, itself looks fragmented now