Kalam says ‘maybe’ in battle for presidency


New Delhi : Incumbent president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam threw a spanner in the works of the presidential elections Wednesday indicating he might contest a second term if there was consensus around him – and give it a "few days" to develop – but he was rebuffed by the ruling UPA.

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"Abdul Kalam … is willing to contest for a second term provided there is certainty of support of (all) political parties," former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu told reporters after meeting the president at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential palace.

However, the efforts by the newly-formed Third Front appeared to have suffered a setback as Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), rejected the suggestion by Naidu, although he called on her twice after meeting Kalam.

Instead, Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan told reporters that the Third Front's support for Kalam was nothing but a "ploy to muddy the waters" of the presidential elections.

Accompanying Naidu to Rashtrapati Bhavan were Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav, MDMK leader Vaiko and Indian National Lok Dal chief Om Prakash Chautala among others.

The absence of AIADMK chief and former Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalitha, who is supposedly unwell, was an indication that the UNPA delegation did not have much hopes of persuading Kalam to go for a second term.

Asked what the president told the delegation, a Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesman said: "During the course of the discussion, the president observed that 'as there is overwhelming love and affection of the people from all section of society and from all parts of the country, I can accept a second term of presidency provided there is certainty about this.'"

Elaborating, the spokesman added that the Third Front was told by the president that he was willing to "wait for a few days for this certainty."

Apparently buoyed by this development, the Third Front leaders then met former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to try and get the support of the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

The TDP leader is now slated to meet Left leaders Prakash Karat, A. Bardhan and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) President Sharad Pawar Thursday as part of his effort to drum up support for Kalam.

Another hurdle before Naidu comes in the form of NDA-partner Shiv Sena. The Sena has been critical of Kalam ever since he kept on hold the decision on the hanging of Afzal Guru, who was found guilty in the case involving a terrorist attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001.

Meanwhile, Sonia Gandhi has convened a meeting of all Congress chief ministers and office-bearers of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) Thursday to chalk out the election strategy for the UPA candidate Pratibha Patil.