President APJ Abdul Kalam declared on Friday that he would not seek a second five-year term even as ruling coalition candidate Pratibha Patil was accused of shielding her brother who allegedly killed a man two years ago.
Denying intense speculation that Kalam may break convention and throw his hat into the presidential ring, the Rashtrapati Bhavan announced that the scientist-turned-President had no intention of fighting the July presidential election.
According to informed sources in the presidential palace, Kalam took the decision after "reviewing the situation" in the wake of an appeal from the regional Third Front grouping to him to bid for another term.
Kalam had earlier told the Third Front, or the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA), that he would be ready to fight the presidential election if there was a "certainty" about his winning.
But on Friday Kalam told former Tamil Nadu chief minister and AIADMK leader J Jayalitha that he had decided not to contest and that his decision was final.
"Although he appreciated our efforts to muster support for him, he said he would not like to contest again," Jayalalitha told reporters.
Even as Kalam bowed out of what could have been an interesting battle had he contested, United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-Left-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) nominee Pratibha Patil, who will file her nomination papers on Saturday, faced the bizarre charge of protecting her brother who allegedly faces murder charge.
At a meeting organised by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), a grieving widow, Rajni Patil, told reporters that the brother had in September 2005 killed her husband VG Patil in Maharashtra.
Speaking in Hindi, at the residence of Akali Dal leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, she said: "Yes, she (Pratibha Patil) had been shielding her brother."
The Congress reacted angrily to the allegation.
"Certain people who were not able to find a proper candidate to match the stature of our candidate are attempting to find allegations against her," party spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan said.
"(Pratibha Patil) does not have any connection with these allegations," she said adding that "the highest office (of President) should not be demeaned" by such allegations.
Lok Jan Shakti Chief Ram Vilas Paswan, who on Friday signed Pratibha Patil's nomination papers, branded the accusation against the presidential candidate as "wrong politics".
Jayalalitha's arrival in New Delhi was seen as a last ditch attempt by the UNPA leaders to persuade Kalam to be in the presidential race.
And with Kalam saying "no" to contest again, the AIADMK leader - who earlier said that her grouping would neither support the UPA nor NDA - said that she and her Third Front colleagues would meet to discuss the future strategy.
But she made her bias clear by praising NDA presidential candidate and Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat for agreeing to step down in case Kalam sought another five-year tenure.
The UNPA comprises of eight regional parties such as the Samajwadi Party, Telugu Desam Party, AIADMK and the Indian National Lok Dal.
According to Jayalalitha, statements from some UPA leaders asking Kalam to leave the presidential palace gracefully had hurt him.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Chief Sharad Pawar and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad, both of who are senior cabinet ministers, had made the comments on Thursday.
On Friday, reiterating the UPA's stance on Kalam, Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi said: "The President is not elected through SMS campaign." He was referring to the campaign carried on by the electronic media about the desirability of having Kalam for a second term.