New Delhi, June 15 (IBNS): After days of tense drama and political skullduggery, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was named on Friday as the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) candidate for the post of President, as the Congress took on their biggest ally Trinamool Congress after its chief Mamata Banerjee ruled out supporting Mukherjee.
While the scale is tilted towards a win for Pranab Mukherjee after several political parties, including those outside the UPA, supporting the seasoned politician and trouble shooter of the UPA II, the past few days's events soured the relations between Mamata Banerjee and the Congress.
Samajwadi Party (SP), which had aligned with Trinamool Congress to name former president A P J Abdul Kalam as their choice, also broke ranks to support the UPA's official choice.
"We support Pranab Mukherjee. He is the most capable and educated candidate," SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav told reporters on Friday.
Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi announced Mukherjee's name as the UPA candidate for the Presidential poll after a crucial meeting on Friday.
"We appeal to all parties, all members of Parliament and state legislatures to support the candidature of Pranab Mukherjee for the post of President," Gandhi said.
Mukherjee thanked Gandhi for selecting him as UPA's candidate for the election.
"I am grateful to Congress President Sonia Gandhi for the recognition," Mukherjee told reporters after he was named by the UPA as its candidate for the President poll.
"I accept the offer with all humility," he said.
Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said Mukherjee is the 'best candidate' for the post and his acceptance is 'unparalleled'.
"Once again UPA decided to announce Pranab Mukherjee for the post of President. Of all the names, there was no name which could match up to Mukherjee," Dwivedi told reporters after Mukherjee's name was officially announced.
"Mukherjee had handled everything from political challenge to economic crisis. His experience, his knowledge, his role in the past and his acceptance is unparalleled," he said.
"He is the best candidate. We hope there would be consensus on this," he said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi are busy speaking with different party leaders including Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley over the issue in an attempt to draw a consensus.
BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said the opposition National Democratic Front (NDA) will meet later to take a decision on 'whom to support' in the poll.
"NDA will have a meeting and take a decision on whom to support," said BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain.
Hussain made the comment on a day when NDA met to discuss on the Presidential polls but did not take any decision.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) patriarch L K Advani after the NDA meeting speaking to media chose to also attack the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) saying he had never seen such "confusion and lack of coherence and distrust among the ruling hierarchy."
"We will closely watch every development. Two leaders who played a vital role till yesterday have gone back to their respective homes.
"Both of them are allies of the ruling party. We have decided to be in constant touch with all leaders of non-Congress parties, particularly in the Opposition," said Advani.
He said the Presidential election has been baldy handled and even the polity can be damaged because of this.
"If the government really wants to correct the situation, let it consult all political parties," said Advani.
The entire issue of selecting the candidate for the Presidential election dragged lots of controversies in the past two days as Mamata along with Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav on Wednesday named Manmohan Singh as one of their choices for the post of President.
They also pitched the names of former President A P J Abdul Kalam (a choice of the rival BJP earlier) as their first preference, and former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee as their choices for the titular post as third preference.
Mamata repeatedly opposed the name of Mukherjee for the post.
She even threatened the Congress and said she will not leave UPA but it is up to the Congress to decide whether she will continue to be part of it.
She said former President A P J Addul Kalam will contest for the presidential election.
"Kalam is our number one candidate. He is a good candidate," she said.
However, political equations changed suddenly on Friday with Samajwadi Party deciding to back Mukherjee.
He said the names told by his party and TMC on Wednesday were 'suggestions'.
Meanwhile, former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati's Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) on Friday voiced their decision of supporting Mukherjee for the post of President.
"Our party has decided to support in favour of Pranab Mukherkee as the most suitable candidate," Mayawati said at a press conference.
She said Gandhi and the Prime Minister spoke to her on the issues.
He is the most experienced and sagacious candidate, said Mayawati.
Amid all the political movements and actions, Mukherjee's family meanwhile welcomed the move and thanked the UPA for selecting the Congress leader's name as its candidate for the poll.
Pranab Mukherjee's son Abhijit Mukherjee said they were grateful for choosing him as a nominee for the post.
"We thank the high command," he said.
He said his father is one of the most suitable candidates.
Mukherjee's daughter said the family passed through some nervous moments.
"There were some nervous moments for the family," Mukherjee's daughter Sharmishta Mukherjee admitted to a TV channel while holding that she hardly discusses politics with her father whenever they catch up with each other for brief moments late night.
His wife Suva Mukherjee when caught by the media battalion said: "I am happy."
She revealed a few things about Mukherjee too, one being how he loved Bengali dishes but without much oil or spice.