NDA, Mamata jolted as Kalam keeps off poll
BJP may back Sangma for President; TMC may abstain
Former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Monday opted out of the presidential election after studying the "totality" of the situation, dealing a blow to the BJP and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee who badly wanted him to take on Pranab Mukherjee.
The Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress, a constituent of ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), and the BJP were keen on fielding the former President, but Kalam issued a statement saying he has decided against contesting considering “the totality of this matter and the present political situation.”
The two parties—Mamata was first to favour Kalam—had banked heavily on the former President contesting the highest constitutional post.
Mamata lobbied for him on Facebook, while BJP’s L K Advani kept in constant touch with him over the last two days. Advani’s confidant Sudheendra Kulkarni met Kalam twice on Monday, but failed to convince him to contest.
Informed sources told Deccan Herald that while the BJP was now thinking of supporting the candidature of Sangma, who has remained in the fray despite the threat of his party—the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)—to sack him if he does not opt out. The Trinamool may ask its members to abstain from voting.
The NDA, headed by the BJP, continued to be a divided house failing to arrive at a decision three days after the Congress and the coalition it heads, the UPA, decided to field veteran Pranab Mukherjee.
The Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and Shiv Sena are said to be in favour of backing the finance minister.
However, the NDA leaders, who are likely to meet on Tuesday, will take a collective decision on the issue. It was stressed by two NDA chief ministers—Nitish Kumar of the JD-U who favours Mukherjee and Parkash Singh Badal of the Akali Dal—who on Monday said the NDA will take a unanimous decision on the issue.
Jolting the plans of the Trinamool and BJP, Kalam issued a statement opting out of the contest.
He said in his statement: “You are aware of the developments in the run-up of the presidential election. Though I have never aspired to serve another term or show interest in contesting the election. Madam Mamata Banerjee and other political parties wanted me to be their candidates.”
Kalam added: “Many citizens also expressed the same. It only reflects their love and affection for me and the aspiration of the people. I am really overwhelmed by this support. This being their wish, I respect it. I want to thank them for the trust they have in me. I have considered the totality of the matter and present political situation and decided not to contest the presidential election 2012.”
Speaking on the development on Kalam, BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said:" Whatever decision we take we will convey to the media. The BJP is not alone. The issue will be discussed in detail by the NDA and a decision taken in a democratic manner."
The BJP has an uphill task to convince its NDA partners to accept Sangma’s candidature. Sangma has been propped up by Biju Janata Dal leader and Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik and his Tamil Nadu counterpart J Jayalalitha.