Mayawati meets Sonia, still mum on president


New Delhi : Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) president Mayawati met United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi here Friday, giving rise to speculation that she might support UPA's presidential candidate. She, however, maintained her silence on the issue.

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A "courtesy call" at 10 Janpath Road, Gandhi's residence, was followed by high tea that lasted over an hour.

Mayawati is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday. But she described just as a routine call by a chief minister "after assuming office".

She maintained her "no decision yet" stand on the issue of who the BSP would support as president at a press conference earlier in the day.

"Our party is not a UPA ally, but to keep communal forces out of power we are supporting the UPA from outside and will continue to do so," she said during her first visit to the national capital after taking over power.

Formally, the BSP president left the matter of the next president to her party's national executive that was to be held later Friday.

"Our party has just taken charge of the Uttar Pradesh government. Since then I have been very busy with Uttar Pradesh. This is an important issue and our party has to take a considered view of the whole question."

Though the national executive begins late Friday, many leaders, legislators and ministers from the state would arrive only Saturday. "We will see what our people want," Mayawati said.

The tea with Sonia Gandhi came in the wake of speculation that the BSP might support BJP leader and vice president Bhairon Singh Shekhawat for president.

Although the ruling coalition has a slight edge, neither UPA nor the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-National Democratic Alliance (NDA) have a majority in the electoral college that will elect the president.

Naturally, the BSP's crucial numbers, strengthened by its victory in this month's Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, gives it the power to decide who would be the new president.