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26 June, 2007

Lure of Office

How sad that President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam almost walked into the trap laid by some scheming politicians!

The leaders of regional parties, who made a last-minute bid to give Kalam a second term, were only seeking to reinforce their claim to maintain equidistance from the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance had already nominated Pratibha Patil as its candidate and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance had made it known that it favoured Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat’s elevation.

Kalam has no doubt been a popular President. Although a newcomer to public office, he conducted himself with dignity and won many admirers, especially among those sections which were disgusted with the deteriorating standards of politicians. As his term was drawing to a close the metro-centric television channels made an attempt to whip up a campaign to give him a second term. His mailbox was choked by messages urging him to seek re-election. Enthused by the affection shown by the public, he expressed willingness to make himself available if there was a consensus.

When the Third Front leaders met him, Kalam told them he was willing to contest if there was certainty of victory.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati having endorsed Pratibha Patil’s candidature, the numbers were against Kalam. His only chance of victory lay in organizing massive defections from the political parties and combinations that had already announced their candidates. It would have been out of character with the kind of image he had projected during the past five years if he had allowed opportunists to use him as a tool to organize defections. Fortunately, he stepped back just in time.

On June 23, the media quoted Kalam as saying he decided against running for a second term as he did not want to be "party" to a political process. Surely he cannot be so naive as to not realize that he became a party to a political process on at least three occasions: first, when he accepted the offer of political parties in 2002 to be a candidate for the office of the President; then, when he said he was willing to stay on if there was a consensus in his favour among political parties; and then again when he told the Third Front leaders that he was ready to run if there was certainty of victory.

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