LK Advani and Sharad Yadav at the NDA meeting in New Delhi on Sunday. Picture by Prem Singh
June 17: On A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s desk in his New Delhi office lies the draft of a letter thanking everyone who had proposed or supported his name for a second shot at the presidency but expressing his inability to do so in the absence of a consensus, according to an aide.
If Kalam makes the letter public tomorrow as was the plan till late tonight, Purno A. Sangma is expected to renew contact with Mamata Banerjee with a last-ditch appeal that nothing should stop her any more from supporting the former Speaker for President.
Sources said Mamata tonight spoke to Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa, who has backed Sangma so far.
“But for incessant pressure from Mamata and Subramanian Swamy, Dr Kalam would have released the letter two days ago after Mulayam Singh switched sides. He does not want to further add to Mamata’s woes by openly walking out of the contest now, though he is convinced that she does not have the numbers,” said a confidant of Kalam who helped draft the statement.
According to Kalam’s close friends, his innate decency in not wanting to hurt Mamata has so far kept him from coming out in public about staying away from the contest.
“When Mulayam backed out suddenly, not only Mamata but even Dr Kalam was shocked. Mamata personally apologised to him for this,” said the Kalam aide.
According to another source — the editor of a Tamil daily — Kalam had told him a month ago that in the absence of a consensus, he would not throw his hat in the ring.
“But apparently Mulayam and Mamata had got him interested when they claimed to have the numbers. That is not the case any longer,” the editor said.
Another Kalam associate said the former President had informed Mamata and Swamy that his candidature should not be pushed any longer.
“He did not want to be pushed into a token contest which he was bound to lose and would only make him look power-hungry. Although Dr Kalam advises youngsters to dream, he is also a realist with his feet rooted to the ground. So he knows which way the presidential wind is blowing now,” said a former professor of Anna University, who had worked with him.
The Sangma camp is hoping that Mamata would support the former Speaker if Kalam opts out.
“Mamataji told my father that she would back him as a presidential nominee, provided Kalam does not contest,” Sandip, Sangma’s son, told The Telegraph from Delhi said tonight.
Sandip said his father had spoken to the Bengal chief minister two days ago but revealed the contents of his discussion to media persons only this morning. “Though I am not associated with the NCP, I was with papa when he was telling reporters that Mamataji had promised to back him provided Kalam is not in the fray as a presidential nominee,” he added.
Sandip said his father remained preoccupied with back-to-back meetings through the week with leaders from various political parties to garner support for his candidature. “We have so far got support from Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik and some other members from the NDA (National Democratic Alliance),” he added.
Asked if Mamata had at all promised Sangma to back him when she is still busy campaigning for Kalam, one of her aides said tonight: “We all stand by Mamatadi’s opposition to Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature. But given the fact that Kalam may not be willing to contest, we may back Sangma.”
Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy said: “Like Mamataji, I am also campaigning for Kalam. But it appears that the former President is not in favour of contesting this time. Let’s see what emerges in a couple of days.”
Asked if he had spoken to Mamata since both of them are campaigning for Kalam, Swamy replied in the negative but said: “If the situation demands, I may come down to Calcutta in a day or two to call on Mamataji.”