Mamata does a U-turn, decides to back Pranab

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Mamata Banerjee
Kolkata, Jul 17: Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday took a U-turn to express her support for Pranab Mukherjee, the UPA candidate for the presidential election scheduled on Jul 19. Banerjee said this in a press conference in Kolkata after last month's drama in the capital where she said that she would not support Mukherjee.

Mamata Banerjee had initially opposed Pranab's candidature and after meeting Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi last month, tried to forge an alliance with Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav against the Congress.

Rejecting Pranab's name, she, along with Mulayam, had floated the names of former President APJ Abdul Kalam, former Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and even the current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as a presidential candidate. However, Mulayam soon made a U-turn and went on to express his support for Pranab, leaving Mamata red-faced. The NDA, meanwhile, harboured a plan to welcome Mamata in her fold but the latter, owing to electoral compulsions, did not respond.

Other parties like the BSP, Shiv Sena, JD(U) and Left parties like the CPI(M) and Forward Bloc also backed Pranab's candidature. Pranab Mukherjee welcomed Mamata's decision while the latter said she hoped Pranab would work for the betterment of India if elected President.

The West Bengal Congress leaders had expressed grievance with Mamata due to her opposition to Pranab's candidature. They even threatened to pull out of the ruling alliance in the state. It was the Congress high command that asked them to show restraint.

The NDA has supported former NCP leader PA Sangma as Pranab's competitor in the Jul 19 presidential poll.

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