It is strange if not totally impolitic of Congress president Sonia Gandhi to have asked ally Trniamool Congress president and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee to announce her (Sonia's) preferences, finance Pranab Mukherjee and vice president Hamid Ansari, in that order. If Sonia Gandhi was serious about either Mukherjee or Ansari, she would have refrained Banerjee from disclosing her choice.
And as strangely, Banarjee goes over to Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav and at a joint press conference, Yadav announces his preferences, former president A.P.J.Abdul Kalam, prime minister Manmohan Singh and former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee. It is true that Yadav has got 21 MPs in Lok Sabha and 217 seats in the Uttar Pradsesh assembly and that constitutes a pretty good if not a hefty chunk of the electoral college, comprising the members of Parliament of both Houses and the legislators of all state assemblies. But Yadav seems to be flexing his political muscle as though he can turn the presidential contest as he wants to.
On the face of it, it would seem that none of the five will make it to the Rashtrapati Bhavan because there is unlikely to be consensus on any of the five names. Pranab Mukherjee may most likely be acceptable to all the parties, but with the other names coming up, Mukherjee will have a tough time holding his place. It is not difficult to imagine that Mukherjee is not exactly the preferred presidential candidate.
By making Banerjee make the public announcement, Sonia Gandhi has let the impression out that she tried her best to push Mukherjee. Sonia Gandhi's mischief -- which can be interpeted as some sort of a political masterstroke by some but used for a wrong end -- was to let Banerjee make the name public. If Sonia Gandhi wanted Mukherjee to be president then she would have used all her persuasive powers to get the allies and others to her side. But by asking Banerjee to announce the name, and that too along with that of Ansari, she has metaphorically thrown Mukherjee to the wolves as it were.
Mulayam Singh Yadav's game is intriguing as well. Either he is merely flexing his political muscle, or this is just a bait and he would finally accept the Congress nominee. It was mischievous on the part of Yadav to suggest Kalam's name when he knows the convention that there is no second term for any president. Mooting Manmohan Singh's name is an indirect way of playing the Congress game. Somnath Chatterjee is literally a red rag to the Left Front parties as well as to the BJP. The BJP would not accept Chatterjee as well. The Congress would not accept Kalam's name.
A virtual chaos has now been created. They call this politics in India.