NEW DELHI, June 18:
Breaking his silence, A P J Abdul Kalam today declared that he would not contest the Presidential poll, snubbing Trinamool Congress and BJP which wanted him to be the Opposition’s candidate against UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee.
Kalam, the former President whose name was propped up by Trinamool leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, said he had taken the decision of not entering the fray after considering “the totality of this matter and the present political situation”.
In a statement here, he made it clear that he had “never aspired to serve another term or shown interest in contesting the elections” but Mamata and “other political parties” wanted him to be the candidate for the Presidential poll to be held on July 19.
“I have considered the totality of this matter and the present political situation, and decided not to contest the Presidential election 2012,” Kalam said.
The former President, who had earlier insisted that he could consider entering the fray only if there was surety about his victory, took the decision to stay away apparently as he was sure that numbers were not in his favour despite Trinamool, BJP and some other parties.
Clearly snubbed, Trinamool Congress, which broke the ranks with UPA to pit him in the fray, did not give any reaction immediately on the development.
BJP, which was trying to persuade Kalam to be the common nominee of the Opposition, also refused to react, saying any decision on whether or not to have a candidate against Mukherjee would be taken by the NDA, which is likely to meet tomorrow.
Congress welcomed Kalam’s decision and asked Mamata to again consider supporting Mukherjee.
JD-U leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar refrained from clearly spelling out whether his party favoured contest against Mukherjee, saying it will not be appropriate for any constituent of the alliance to make public its separate viewpoint when discussions were on within the joint forum of NDA.
Shiromani Akali Dal patron Parkash Singh Badal said his party will back the decision taken by NDA.
Shiv Sena is also keeping its cards close to chest but is talking to other coalition allies on the issue.
Interestingly, BJP MP Maneka Gandhi today met Mukherjee in his North Block office of the Finance Ministry, and said whoever becomes the President should be a consensus candidate.”
Commenting on the former President’s decision to opt out, Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said Kalam is a “very distinguished person. We have highest respect for him. We hold him in high esteem. If in his wisdom he has taken a decision it must obviously be an appropriate decision.”
Trinamool Congress MP Kunal Ghosh said Mamata and the party have “done their duty by proposing his (Kalam’s) name for the Presidential election as the ablest candidate for the highest post.” He said a comment on Kalam’s opting out will be made by Mamata.
BJD chief and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who had put forth the candidature of Sangma, continued to push it.
Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh, who was with Mamata in propping up Kalam’s name before making a U-turn, said “Kalam chapter is closed one”.
After Mamata pushed Kalam’s candidature, BJP also tried hard to persuade him to contest.
BJP leader L K Advani called him thrice and sent his close aide Sudheendra Kulkarni twice to convince him. However, he made clear to Advani that his “conscience” is not permitting him to contest, sources said.
“Many, many citizens have also expressed the same wish (that he should contest). It only reflects their love and affection for me and the aspiration of the people. I am really overwhelmed by this support,” Kalam said.
“This being their wish, I respect it. I want to thank them for the trust they have in me,” he said.
When referred to Kalam’s move to opt out, BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said her party will discuss all such issues with other allies of NDA before a decision is taken.
The NDA, which met here yesterday, failed to reach any decision as it was divided over opposing Mukherjee and there was lack of clarity on extending support to P A Sangma.
JD-U, a crucial constituent of the NDA, wanted that there should be no contest against Mukherjee because of his stature, but BJP was of the view that there should be a fight.
Kumar today said he favoured a consensus on the issue of candidature for which efforts are on within the Opposition alliance.
He said he has a “good relationship” with Mukherjee but his relations with Sangma “is not bad”. “In politics, one shares good relations with all,” Kumar said. (PTI)
NEW DELHI, June 18: