New Delhi, June 16: Congress president Sonia Gandhi had two clandestine late night meetings with Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav before she called Mamata Banerjee's bluff on the presidential poll issue, Indian Express reported.
The newspaper quoting sources close to Mulayam Singh said hours after Mulayam Singh and Mamata banerjee stunned the nation by announcing three names of APJ Abdul Kalam, Manmohan Singh and Somnath Chatterjee, Sonia Gandhi's advisers swung into action.
The first meeting between Sonia Gandhi and Mulayam Singh took place on Wednesday night.
The newspaper report said, Sonia's second meeting with Mulayam took place on Thursday night.
Some ten days ago, Mulayam Singh had asked Sonia Gandhi about the names doing the rounds, including that of Pranab Mukherjee, but she gave no indication of who she had in mind, sources told Indian Express.
The Wednesday night talks were 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 Banerjee, who promptly announced that Abdul Kalam was her choice for President.
That night, Mulayam and Sonia met again and sealed SP's support for Pranab Mukherjee, the Express report says.
Mulayam left New Delhi on Friday 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 let the cat out of the bag.
Ram Gopal Yadav explained that Mamata's wods “our candidate” could also mean “my candidate”, clearing distance his party from Abdul Kalam.
“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 the evening, the UPA announced Pranab's candidature and Mulayam Singh rang up Ram Gopal Yadav 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.”