In a major embarrassment to the BJP-led NDA and the Trinamool Congress, the former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, politely turned down vociferous appeals from these parties and sections of the non-political class to stand against the UPA Presidential candidate, Pranab Mukherjee.
In a brief statement, Mr. Kalam referred to the Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee and other political parties' demand that he be their Presidential nominee and observed that he had “considered the totality of the matter and the present political situation, and decided not to contest.”
Though hopes of prevailing upon Mr. Kalam to enter the fray for another term in Rashtrapati Bhavan faded after the Samajwadi Party, which originally mooted the idea along with the Trinamool, threw its weight behind Mr. Mukherjee, constituents of the NDA, particularly the BJP, tried till the last minute to convince the “Missile Man.”
After vain efforts by Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy to persuade Mr. Kalam to contest, NDA Working Chairman and senior BJP leader L.K. Advani got into the act. Mr. Kalam conveyed to Mr. Advani his inability to accept their offer before issuing a public statement.
The decisive ‘no' from Mr. Kalam leaves an already divided NDA in the lurch.
The only option before the BJP at the moment is to line up behind the BJD and the AIADMK and back the former Lok Sabha Speaker, P.A. Sangma, for President. BJP leaders believe that it is a politically prudent option for a party which is on the lookout for potential allies in the 2014 general elections. The moot question is whether it can sell the idea to the other constituents in the NDA.