A new dimension has been added to the speculations about who will be India's next President. Mamata Bannerji and Mulayam Singh must have taken everyone by surprise when they suggested the names of APJ Abdul Kalam, Dr Manmohan Singh and Somnath Chatterjee, former Lok Sabha Speaker as their choice for the top post.
WE WILL have to wait and see what the final outcome would be. It may be noted that the Congress has yet to make public the name of its official candidate and the NDA will wait for Sofia to do so before it defines its strategy. Digvijay Singh has said that final name would be announced after consulting all allies. There are speculations that all this is a drama being staged by the UPA.
Interestingly enough, out of the three names suggested, only Dr Manmohan Singh is a Congressman. There may be many who could be wanting Dr Manmohan out of the Prime Ministerial chair. If he becomes the President- though he had said only a few weeks ago that I am happy where I am - will Pranab Mukherjee be the next Prime Minister or will Defence Minister Antony be elevated to that post?
The bombshell from Mamata and Mulayam has taken everyone by surprise because till then -there was no inkling of any big rapport between them. In fact Mulayam had been cozying round Sonia and it seemed he was willing to stand unconditionally by the Congress in the hope that the Centre will release bounties for UP being currently ruled by his son Akhilesh. Mamata too-has been very careful in projecting new names, particularly that of Somnath Chatterjee to ensure that Bengali sentiments are respected. This CPM however is not enthused by this at all and said any one proposed by the Congress would be rejected even if it is Somnath Chatterjee.
Much will depend on how the NDA plays its cards. There are two opinions dominating the discussions. One view is that under no circumstances should there be any backing of a UPA candidate as they want the distance between the two rivals to increase before the 2014- Lok Sabha poll. But there is the other section which wants that the old pattern be followed- of having President proposed by the ruling alliance and the Vice President by the Opposition. That way it would get a chance to install either Jaswant Singh or Parkash Singh Badal as the next Vice President of India. Everything seems to be in the melting pot. But things have indeed reached an exciting stage.