The BJP on Monday rejected the contention of CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat’s statement that it had opposed a second term for K R Narayanan five years ago on the ground that person should be given a second term.
BJP’s deputy leader in Lok Sabha V K Malhotra said, “we never said no person should be given a second term. We opposed a second term for Narayanan, which is true and has reasons which we do not like to say now.”
Malhotra was responding to the media’s queries on whether the BJP stood by the stand it had taken in 2002. Refuting Karat’s contention, Malhotra said the BJP did not hold such a view.
Later, BJP officials said the party still backed Kalam getting a second term but did not want to speak about his candidature till other parties made their views known and results of the UP assembly polls were declared.
“We do not want Kalam to be branded as BJP’s nominee. The President himself would not like such a projection,” said a senior party leader.
Last January, a team of top BJP leaders including A B Vajpayee and L K Advani and NDA convenor George Fernandes had discussed the issue with Kalam. While his response was kept a secret, BJP leader believed that Kalam would not say “no” to a second term if consensus was built on his name.
The CPI(M) has come against a second term for the incumbent. Karat had told PTI on Sunday that “As far as a second term is concerned, I recall that last time the BJP had argued that no person should be given a second term and that is why they would not support K.R. Narayanan. They had said that since Dr. Rajendra Prasad, nobody was given a second term. I wonder what argument they would give now.''
He was asked whether the CPI (M) would favour a second term for Kalam.
Among the NDA leaders, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had come out in support of Kalam. Recently, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav had also praised Kalam.
As for the Congress and its allies, their leaders have said they would wait for discussions to begin on this issue before making up their mind.
The non-Congress parties, including the NDA and the SP, think that the results of the Uttar Pradesh elections could become a determining factor in election of the next President.
"Kalam is our first choice. If it does not materialise, then we have Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat," a BJP leader said.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister P R Dasmunshi, when asked at a news conference the stand of the UPA in view of the CPI-M's opposition to Kalam's second term, said "It is for the party to decide. Whoever is made the official candidate, I will be the chief election agent," he said.