2 meetings: How Sonia broke M&M
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The first meeting took place on Wednesday night, hours after Mulayam and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee stunned the Congress by announcing the names of former president A P J Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee as possible contenders for the office of the President.
Sonia moved even as her party was smarting from Mamata's disclosure that the Congress president wanted Mukherjee as the UPA candidate.
Her second meeting with Mulayam took place on Thursday night, the sources said.
Some ten days ago, Mulayam had asked Sonia about the names doing the rounds, including that of Mukherjee, but she gave no indication of who she had in mind, the sources said.
The Wednesday night talks were said to have been inconclusive with both trying to explain their position on the grievances each side had against the other. But there was one fallout of this meeting — Mulayam did not face the media on Thursday evening after his meeting with Mamata who promptly announced that Kalam was "our candidate" for President. That night, Mulayam and Sonia met again and sealed SP support for Mukherjee.
Mulayam left New Delhi this morning, without explaining why he distanced himself from Mamata and her announcement about Kalam. It was left to SP general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav to explain that Mamata's "our candidate" could have also meant "my candidate".
"There is no difference between we (hamara) and mine. Several times, we use the word 'hamara' for a single person also," Ram Gopal said.
By evening, the UPA announced Pranab's candidature and Mulayam rang up Ram Gopal from Lucknow to act on the promise he had given to Sonia. Ram Gopal, in turn, called up reporters to announce: "SP welcomes Pranabda's candidature from the UPA and the party will support his candidature with all its might."
Mulayam turned up in Lucknow via Agra. In the evening, he told reporters: "Pranabji is a learned, senior and sincere candidate and the SP will support him in the presidential polls. Ram Gopal Yadav has announced support in Delhi."
Asked about the three names he had floated along with Mamata, Mulayam said: "It was only a suggestion and was not binding on anyone. They did not accept it, that's it." To a query whether this had strained his ties with Mamata, he said this was "not an appropriate time" and the issue was "irrelevant".
To a query on the likelihood of his party joining the government, he said: "We are not joining the government. No one has invited us. It is an absurd question."
Nearly an hour before Mulayam announced his support for Mukherjee, BSP chief Mayawati endorsed the UPA's choice. "He is the most learned, mature and most appropriate among the names which have emerged so far for the president's post. BSP will support him and if there is need, we will vote for him. It is better if the election is unopposed," she said.
Mayawati said the decision was taken to keep "fundamentalist forces at bay in the larger interest of the country". She said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi had spoken to her to seek support for Mukherjee. "I gave my nod. We were in touch even in the past," she said.
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