Parties have begun to flex their muscles though the election of the President is two months away, and the results of the UP Assembly, which hold the key, are ten days away. About 5,000 legislators across the country and 750 Members of Parliament belonging to the two Houses constitute the electoral college that elects the President.
UP, which has a House strength of 403 MLAs and 80 Lok Sabha MPs, has one of the biggest representation in that college. Till the results of the elections underway are notified and new legislators take oath, the votes commanded by the UPA and the Opposition NDA will not be known.
The Congress, which leads the UPA, is naturally keen to see that its nominee succeeds Kalam whose term ends on July 17. The UPA is awaiting the outcome of the UP polls. The BJP and other allies who form the NDA are hoping to thwart the UPA plan.
The BJP, which supported Kalam’s candidature for a second term as early as January, has rejected 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 no person should be given a second term.
BJP’s deputy leader in Lok Sabha V K Malhotra said, “we have never said no person should be given a second term. We opposed a second term for Narayanan, which is true. We had 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.