Kalam says he will not contest again


New Delhi : President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Friday firmly turned down requests to contest the presidential election next month, saying he did not want his office to be "dragged into unseemly politics."

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Kalam, who was Thursday asked by three senior cabinet ministers to retire gracefully after he hinted he may run a second term, made his decision known to former Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalitha who called on him at the Rashtrapati Bhavan to persuade him to continue in office.

"Although he appreciated the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) attempts for a consensus (for another five-year term for him), he expressed deep regret that he would not like to contest again," AIADMK chief Jayalalitha told reporters here.

According to her, Kalam was "deeply wounded" by the statements made by "people in high offices and UPA senior leaders".

"There have been wounding statements from high offices and uncivilised remarks from UPA leaders. They have done it in boorish and churlish language. Kalam was deeply wounded by these statements.

"He expressed the feelings that he did not want the post of president should be dragged into unseemly politics," Jayalalitha said.

Jayalalitha, flanked by Telugu Desam party (TDP) chief N. Chandrababu Naidu, Samajwadi Party leaders Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) chief Om Prakash Chautala and MDMK leader Vaiko, said Kalam was firm against re-nomination.

"We have done our best to convince him. But he was firm," she said.

Reiterating that the newly formed Third Front grouping will not support either UPA-Left-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate Pratibha Patil or Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) backed nominee Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Jayalalitha said: "In the present scenario, we will take some more time to deliberate and discuss what the next step would be."

However, the AIADMK chief praised BJP and NDA leaders for "being gracious" to announce their support for Kalam in the event of a national consensus about his presidency.

"It shows the graciousness and statesmanship on their part," she said, after a visit to the residence of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

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