Kalam candidature rejected by Left and other parties


New Delhi : Attempts to mobilise support for a second term for President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam received a jolt Thursday with the Left and heavyweight Nationalist Congress Party dismissing the idea and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad advising Kalam to "quit gracefully".

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The Third Front – or the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) – a group of regional parties that has been trying to drum up support for Kalam, was disappointed after its meetings with leaders of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), Communist Party of India (CPI) and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

And by the time the UNPA leaders met NCP leader Sharad Pawar Thursday evening, the Maratha leader had already signed the nomination papers of UPA-Left-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate Pratibha Patil.

"It is a pity that a sitting president has to contest. I know he will not be at the crease for long," said Pawar later, employing a cricket terminology.

Kalam, who had said earlier he would not consider a second term unless there was a consensus, was Wednesday quoted as saying he would be ready for another tenure if his victory were a "certainty".

"Kalam should resign gracefully as it is too late for any reconsideration on the issue," Lalu Prasad said with typical bluntness after signing the nomination papers of Patil as a proposer.

In a statement, the CPM politburo said: ''[CPI-M General Secretary] Prakash Karat informed the UNPA leaders that the CPI-M has already decided to extend its support to the UPA nominee Pratibha Patil, and in view of this, the matter cannot be considered.''

''The UNPA leaders had come to meet us. They wanted us to consider Kalam as a presidential candidate. But we informed them that we had officially rejected Kalam and it was too late for us to reconsider it,'' said CPI-M politburo member Sitaram Yechury.

Third Front leaders also met with CPI leader A. B. Bardhan, who too dismissed their plea to support Kalam.

The Third Front received yet another blow as Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi told reporters: "When the prime minister called on the president after his Germany visit, he did convey on behalf of the government and supporting parties that we have decided our candidate (for president)."

Taking exception to the use of the word "certainty" by Rashtrapati Bhavan in the context of a second term for Kalam, Dasmunsi said it was "very unfortunate" that such words were being used.

"Never in history a memorandum or a deputation to persuade somebody to become a candidate (for presidential election) has been done and nor should it be," he said, adding it was "against culture and tradition".

"No such communication should come with certainty. 'Certainty' is a definitive word and has other meanings, which I feel is unfortunate," Dasmunsi said.

Meanwhile, Pratibha Patil, Thursday submitted her resignation as Rajasthan governor.

"I have submitted my resignation to President (A.P.J. Abdul) Kalam," Patil told reporters after a brief meeting with him at the Rashtrapati Bhavan here. "I thanked him for the help and guidance he gave me," she said.

If elected, Patil, 72, will be India's first woman president.

While the UPA-Left-BSP have the majority share of votes, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance had thrown its weight behind Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

But after UNPA mooted Kalam's name for a second term, the BJP and some of its allies expressed their willingness to support Kalam if there was "consensus" on his name.

However, with NDA-partner Shiv Sena having already rejected Kalam's candidature, there appeared little hope of the aero scientist-turned-president getting another term.

The UPA-Left-BSP has 570,000 votes in the electoral college comprising MPs and MLAs who elect the president. The NDA has 354,689 votes and the Third Front 105,225.