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Kalam reluctant to enter fray
Elusive political consensus the determining factor
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

  • George Fernandes and Digvijay Singh meet Kalam
  • Third Front leaders Mulayam Singh, Chandrababu Naidu and O.P. Chautala to meet Kalam today
  • UPA-Left set Pratibha’s nomination in motion
  • RSS supports NDA-backed presidential candidate Bhairon Singh Shekhawat
  • Shiv Sena rules out support for Kalam, may back Patil

New Delhi, June 19
President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam is believed to have conveyed to AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalithaa over the telephone yesterday his reluctance to enter the Presidential fray. He has, thus, left the floor open for a direct contest between the UPA-Left nominee Rajasthan Governor Pratibha Devisingh Patil and NDA’s senior leader and Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat as an Independent.

Despite the third front of regional parties, which met in Chennai yesterday under the banner of United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA), pushing for a second term for Kalam in the interest of the nation, the outgoing President who completes his term next month is firm that he wants to bid adieu to Rashtrapati Bhavan as there is no consensus across the political spectrum.

After the meeting in Chennai, Jayalalithaa as well as SP’s Mulayam Singh Yadav, TDP’s N. Chandrababu Naidu and INLD’s Om Prakash Chautala spoke to Kalam on telephone apprising him of their decision and sought an appointment with him. These leaders are scheduled to meet the President tomorrow afternoon to persuade him to change his mind.

Even as the UPA-Left set in motion the formal process of nominating Pratibha Devisingh Patil today for the Presidential election with Sonia Gandhi and Dr Singh proposing and seconding her nomination, the Prime Minister called on Kalam and briefed him about his visit to Berlin and the G8 summit with the Outreach countries in the Baltic resort of Heiligendamm earlier this month.

Later, NDA convener George Fernandes and Digvijay Singh met Kalam to feel his pulse about the UNPA’s proposal. This assumes significance as both Fernandes and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee were in favour of Kalam seeking a second term.

With the UNPA seeking to maintain equi-distance from the Congress and the BJP because of their own political compulsions including keeping their minority vote banks intact, it could well be back to square one. Their gambit and particularly Jayalalithaa's to spite her Dravidian rival and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi by trying to whip up Tamil chauvinism has failed.

The BJP-led Opposition has 354,689 votes in the electoral college of 1.098 million votes while the UPA is far ahead with about 570,000 votes. The UNPA commands 106,281 votes. The electoral college for the Presidential poll comprises members of the two Houses of Parliament and the state legislatures.

Meanwhile, The RSS has come out in support of NDA-backed presidential candidate Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, whom former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has praised as a vice-president of “impeccable secular credentials”.

Mumbai (PTI): The Shiv Sena today ruled out its support for re-election of President A P J Abdul Kalam and indicated its intention to back UPA-Left candidate Pratibha Patil. Sena chief Bal Thackeray said the party's decision on whom it would support would be announced on June 25.

“There are some who say they will withdraw if Kalam opts to contest. But if that happens, whom are we supposed to support? Let's enjoy the fun,” Thackeray told party workers here. “We will not support Kalam. He has lost place in my heart,” the Sena supremo said.

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