President APJ Abdul Kalam is unlikely to accept the plea of Third Front leaders to run for a second term. He will stick to his earlier decision to return to academics when his term ends on July 25.
A Third Front leader, who spoke to people close to Kalam soon after the alliance's decision to back his candidature, said the president was disinclined to consider the request.
Kalam is expected to reiterate his decision when AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa, TDP leader Chandrababu Naidu and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav meet him on behalf of the newly formed United National Progressive Alliance, on Wednesday.
Sources close to Kalam said that as a sitting president, he did not think it appropriate to enter a contest for another term.
Although Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and an NDA delegation called on Kalam on Tuesday, the issue of the presidential election did not come up during their discussions. Singh spoke about his recent visit to Germany for the G-8 summit. The NDA delegation — including George Fernandes and JD(U) leader Digvijay Singh — discussed the recent flare-up in Nandigram.
The NDA, which is backing Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, made it clear that the vice-president would be in the fray if there was no consensus on Kalam. Said BJP spokesperson Sushma Swaraj: "He (Shekhawat) has paved the way for building a consensus on Kalam. The ball is now in the Congress's court."
Shekhawat had welcomed the Third Front's move for a consensus on Kalam's name on Monday.
Swaraj said that Kalam had, two months ago, asked the NDA not to take any initiative to build a consensus on his name. Instead, he wanted the Congress and the Left to make such a move first. "In the absence of a consensus, Shekhawat will remain the NDA-backed candidate," said Swaraj.
But the confusion within the NDA seemed far from being resolved. While Shiv Sena chief Thackeray opposed Kalam and hinted at backing Patil, another key NDA ally, the Trinamool Congress, said Kalam was its first choice. Party chief Mamata Banerjee said, “Kalam is our first choice for the post of president.”
The UPA and Left, however, maintained that Pratibha Patil was their nominee. On Tuesday, they set in motion the formal process of nominating Patil. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed her nomination papers as first and second proposers.