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President Kalam not to contest for second term

The presidential race now appears to have narrowed down between Pratibha Patil and Shekhawat.

india Updated: Jun 27, 2007 20:53 IST

The presidential race on Tuesday appeared to have narrowed down to a straight contest - between United Progressive Alliance (UPA) candidate Pratibha Patil and National Democratic Alliance (NDA)-supported independent Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, with President APJ Abdul Kalam's office signalling his disinterest in a second term.

"There is no change in stand of the President. He will not contest the elections," a Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesman told IANS.

A delegation of the Third Front - officially known as the United New Progressive Alliance or UNPA - is slated to meet Kalam on Wednesday to formally request him to be their candidate for the presidential elections.

However, the eight-party Front's decision to back Kalam seems have had little impact, in spite of former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda lending his support to it on Tuesday. Gowda heads the Janata Dal (S), which shares power with the Bharatiya Janata Party in Karnataka.

A delegation of the NDA comprising Convenor George Fernandes, Janata Dal (U) leader Digvijay Singh and Trinamool Congress leader Dinesh Trivedi met Kalam on Tuesday but the presidential election did not figure in the discussions.

"We discussed Nandigram with the president," Trivedi told IANS, adding that the presidential election did not come up.

Shiv Sena, a member of the NDA, is yet to decide whom to support.

Also on Tuesday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had a 25-minute meeting with President Kalam where they "discussed issues of national importance," a Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesman said.

Meanwhile, the UPA-Left formally set in motion the process of nominating Patil with Prime Minister Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi being the first to propose her name and sign the papers in the presence of Union Ministers PR Dasmunsi and Prithviraj Chavan.

The BJP-led opposition has 354,689 votes in the electoral college of 1.098 million votes while the UPA has about 570,000 votes. The Third Front commands 106,281 votes and independents and smaller political parties have about 60,000 votes.

Patil, who has been in the capital since Saturday, left for Jaipur on Tuesday morning after a telephonic talk with Agriculture Minister and Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar.

Shekhawat remained at the Vice Presidential residence and had a meeting with Janata Dal (U) leader Digvijay Singh, sources said.