Sonia’s coup to cost Congress
By Santwana Bhattacharya - NEW DELHI
Published: 17th Jun 2012 08:23:37 AM
If a winners’ stand is put up today outside Raisina Hill marking the nail-biting race to Rashtrapati Bhawan, Sonia Gandhi would easily occupy the top slot. Pranab Mukherjee and Mulayam Singh will be the runners-up. In a medieval style atmosphere filled with palace intrigues, novice power games and betrayals, the Congress old guard got together in the quiet of the night three days ago to vanquish Mamata Banerjee, the irascible challenger to the established UPA order. In 2007, Sonia could afford to keep all guessing till the last minute before she sent Pratibha Patil to Raisina Hill. This time, she had to use persuasion and power play to get them behind her, isolate Mamata, and proclaim her candidate even before the nominations had begun. The coup came with a price, however.
Backroom boys move in
Sonia Gandhi was taken aback when Mamata and Mulayam announced on Wednesday that Kalam was their first choice for President. The Congress manipulative machinery swung into action. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sent MoS V Narayanaswamy to Pranab’s 12 Talkatora Road residence late that night. Sonia’s political secretary Ahmed Patel joined him. It was decided that Mamata would not be allowed to get away with her insolence. They would approach Mulayam directly. MoS Parliamentary Affairs Rajeev Shukla was sent to negotiate with SP heavyweights Ram Gopal Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav and Naresh Agarwal. Once Mulayam was managed—within 48 hours—Sonia had managed to lose one ally and get a new one.
Ahmed Patel was sent to Mulayam’s Ashoka Road residence to bring the UP satrap on board. The SP chief wanted an audience with the Congress boss before committing himself.