Former president APJ Abdul Kalam had already said no to NDA’s first emissary Subramanian Swamy, after SP’s Mulayam Singh backed Pranab Mukherjee as the UPA’s nominee for the presidential polls.
Yet, LK Advani — authorised by NDA leaders on Sunday to talk to all stakeholders to evolve a consensus — spoke to Kalam again on Monday. He also sent his aide Sudheendra Kulkarni to meet Kalam twice. Why?
Knowing well that Kalam was not committing to joining the presidential race, top BJP leaders had on Sunday tried unsuccessfully to pursue other NDA allies to consider the candidature of PA Sangma.
When Janata Party chief Swamy met him over the issue for the first time, Kalam had specifically wanted to know whether Mulayam would back him. Subsequently, Swamy, who is a NDA member, met Mulayam to canvass for the former president.
Kalam also wanted to know if he had the support of at least 55% of the collegium that elects the president. This meant not just the support of the entire NDA, the SP and Trinamool Congress, but also the ADMK and BJD, which had committed to supporting Sangma.
But events changed dramatically when Sonia Gandhi announced Mukherjee’s name last Friday, after which Mulayam Yadav and BSP leader Mayawati quickly announced their support for the finance minister’s candidature.
BJP insiders say Advani made a second attempt to get Kalam in the fray because Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee insisted on his candidature and wanted the BJP and its allies to try again. Party leaders also thought if Kalam agreed, Bihar CM and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar— who was insisting on a consensus and was against a contest — could be persuaded to support a non-UPA nominee.
BJP leaders also believed that once Mamata was convinced they had done their best to convince Kalam, she could be persuaded to back PA Sangma or any other NDA nominee, who could get the support of Jayalalithaa and Naveen Patnaik.
This, in turn, would have made the presidential poll a tough challenge for the UPA. A beginning would have been made for new political alignment, party officials said.