M A I N   N E W S

Kalam opts out, BJP may turn to Sangma
in a dilemma: Shiv Sena set to back Pranab, JD(U)’s Nitish Kumar calls him a capable leader
Anita Katyal/TNS

New Delhi, June 18
Embarrassed by former President APJ Abdul Kalam’s decision not to contest the Presidential election, the BJP is mulling the option of supporting former Lok Sabha Speaker PA Sangma, whose candidature has been proposed by AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa and BJD chief Naveen Patnaik.

This was the view that emerged at a late night meeting of the BJP core group, which felt that such a move would help build bridges with potential allies ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

However, in the process of expanding its circle of friends, the BJP was ditched by its closest ally, the Shiv Sena, which is all set to back UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee. The Finance Minister, it is learnt, sought Sena chief Balasaheb Thackery’s support earlier in the day.

Besides the Shiv Sena, BJP’s other regional partners like the Janata Dal (U) and the Akali Dal have already expressed their reservations about opposing Mukherjee at the last two NDA meetings.

Both the BJP and Trinamool Congress, who were rooting for Kalam, were left stranded when the former President opted out of the race. It is learnt that he had indicated that he would be willing to contest, provided his victory was assured. However, as the numbers are presently stacked up, the UPA enjoys a clear edge and the former President could have, at best ensured a “credible defeat” for the Opposition.

Senior BJP leader LK Advani had telephoned Kalam thrice to persuade him to contest. He felt if Kalam was in the contest, it would be easier for the BJP to bring around its reluctant allies like the Janata Dal (U), the Shiv Sena and the Akali Dal, which are not enthusiastic about opposing Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature in favour of Sangma.

In fact, JD (U) leader and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar indicated as much today as he described the UPA nominee as a capable leader while the Shiv Sena has argued against putting up a token fight.

“If Kalam had agreed to run for Presidency, it would have been difficult for our allies to oppose him. But in the absence of a credible option like Kalam, it will make it easier for our partners to chart their independent path,” remarked a senior BJP leader.

For the record, BJP’s partners are saying they will abide by the final decision of the NDA on the Presidential poll. However, the last two meetings of NDA leaders ended inconclusively because of sharp differences among the alliance partners. There are differences within the BJP too. Advani and Sushma Swaraj are among the leaders who are pushing for a contest on the plea that the Opposition should not be seen in the company of the UPA when its stock has hit rock bottom.

A section wants the BJP to negotiate with the UPA for the Vice-President’s post in lieu of its support for Mukherjee.

The Big Snub 

n Kalam said he didn’t aspire to serve another term though Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee and other political parties wanted him to be their candidate

n Senior BJP leader LK Advani on Monday called up Kalam thrice to persuade him to contest while his emissary Sudheendra Kulkarni called on the ex-President twice but to no avail

n The BJP is now likely to support Sangma whose candidature has been proposed by Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa and Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik to reach out to potential allies with an eye on the 20

4 Lok Sabha polls
I have considered the totality of the matter and decided not to contest the Presidential election
— APJ Abdul Kalam





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