The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Quick hint to Kalam

New Delhi, June 19: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called on the President today to inform him about Pratibha Patil’s nomination — a subtle signal that A.P.J. Abdul Kalam would not have the UPA’s support for a second term.

Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi had swung into action after the Opposition yesterday proposed another term for Kalam, hoping to play on his minority origins and appeal with the young and the middle class.

This morning, Sonia formally proposed Patil’s name for President and signed the nomination papers. Singh followed. Priya Ranjan Das Munshi and Prithviraj Chavan, the Union ministers who are Patil’s poll minders, then left for the states to get the signatures of UPA-Left MPs and MLAs.

Next, the Prime Minister sought an appointment with Kalam and when they met for what was described as a “courtesy call” by PMO and Rashtrapati Bhavan sources, told him Patil had been formally nominated by the UPA.

Earlier in the day, the DMK rejected Jayalalithaa’s appeal to support Kalam who belongs to Tamil Nadu.

Sources close to Kalam, who yesterday insisted on a consensus, said he was not “entirely happy” about being “dragged” into the fray but would not say if he had opted out. “There is time until June 30,” said one source.

But a Janata Dal (United) leader said: “A politician would have taken the plunge but Kalam is a precision technocrat and if he has an iota of doubt, he will not bite the bait.”

The NDA had aimed for a PR “coup” by pitching for Kalam through its official contender, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

BJP spokesperson Sushma Swaraj today said: “If there is all-round consensus on Kalam, we will be part of it. Otherwise, there will be an election and Shekhawat will be our candidate. He will get everybody’s support.”

But even within the NDA, support for Shekhawat is not assured. The Shiv Sena has put off till June 25 a decision on whether to back him or Patil — a daughter of Maharashtra.

Trinamul Congress MP Dinesh Trivedi said: “Our first choice is Kalam. But if he is unwilling, we will meet again to put a Plan B in place.”

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