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Pressure on Kalam to seek second term

Pressure seems to be mounting on President APJ Abdul Kalam to run for a second term, with sections of the NDA also joining the 'Third Front' clamour for his continuation.

india Updated: Jun 27, 2007 20:51 IST

Pressure seems to be mounting on President APJ Abdul Kalam to run for a second term, with sections of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) also joining the 'Third Front' clamour for his continuation as the country's head of state.

After the eight-party United New Progressive Alliance (UNPA) announced on Monday that it would urge Kalam to go for a second tenure, Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat declared that he would withdraw from the presidential race if Kalam agreed to remain in the Rashtrapati Bhavan for five more years.

Kalam has not reacted publicly to the UNPA request made in Chennai by former Tamil Nadu chief minister and AIADMK leader J Jayalalitha on behalf of eight parties including the Samajwadi Party and Telugu Desam Party (TDP).

The Congress and Left are in no mood to accept Kalam, who has said that he would not contest the July 19 presidential election without a political consensus.

On Tuesday, however, a battery of political leaders sought appointment with the 75-year-old scientist-turned president.

They included NDA convenor George Fernandes, Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader Digvijay Singh, Trinamul Congress Rajya Sabha member Dinesh Trivedi and Janata Party president Subramniam Swamy.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is also scheduled to meet him on Tuesday evening, but official sources said it was a "routine meeting".

UNPA leaders, who have rubbished the candidature of United Progressive Alliance (UPA) presidential nominee Pratibha Patil, feel there is "no other candidate who has the stature of Kalam".

All of them are expected in New Delhi on Wednesday to meet the president.

Speaking at a function later on Monday, Shekhawat - who is contesting as an independent - said he would withdraw his candidature if Kalam agreed to contest for a second term.

The pro-Kalam appeal has clearly split the NDA.

Besides Fernandes, who seems to be tilting towards Kalam, Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has declared her preference for the president.

But BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said: "The whole NDA ... had called on President Kalam and he said that only when all the parties agree to support him will he consider the second term, and this is right also because a sitting president should not contest. So we reject this (UNPA) appeal."

The BJP-led opposition has 354,689 votes in the electoral college of 1.098 million votes while the UPA is far ahead with about 570,000 votes. The so-called Third Front, or UNPA, commands 106,281 votes.

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