New Delhi: The political corridor is abuzz after the former President APJ Abdul Kalam opted to pull out his candidature from the presidential race this year. With the sudden dramatic twist on Monday, the political parties are now busy in figuring out their political equations in a bid to field the best candidate for the country’s top most post.

Meanwhile, the speculation of UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee becoming the country’s first citizen is also picking up after his top contender Kalam refused to contest for the poll and NDA still undecided on its presidential candidate.

Kalam refuses to contest

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In a rebuff to Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and BJP, Kalam announced that he would not contest the Presidential poll against UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee.
       
Kalam, who was propped up by Trinamool as a nominee for the Presidential poll to be held on July 19, said, "though I have never aspired to serve another term or shown interest in contesting the elections, Mamata Banerjee and other political parties wanted me to be the candidate. But the totality of this matter and the present political situation compelled me to take this decision.
   
"Many, many citizens have also expressed the same wish. It only reflects their love and affection for me and the aspiration of the people. I am really overwhelmed by this support," his statement said.
            
Notably, BJP was more in favour of fielding Kalam than former Lok Sabha Speaker P A Sangma, who is AIADMK Chief J Jayalalithaa and BJD head Naveen Patnaik's choice. Even JD (U), which wants a consensus for Mukherjee, may support Kalam as he shares a good equation with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

Upset Mamata to convince Kalam
   
After hearing the reports of Kalam not contesting the presidential poll, TMC chief Mamata Banerjee described him as people's President and said she was hurt that he opted to be out of the race.

"I have seen your statement that you are not contesting. This news has hurt all of us deeply," she said in her latest Facebook post.
   
Describing Kalam as a 'people's President', she said that he had bridged the gap between high office and common people.

Meanwhile, the Trinamool Congress asserted that it was prepared to leave the UPA government if the Congress considered it unwanted, and said efforts would be made to convince the Former President APJ Abdul Kalam to contest for the president's post.

Mulayam calls Kalam a closed chapter
   

Meanwhile, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav said A P J Abdul Kalam chapter is closed now and his party is supporting Pranab Mukherjee for the post of the President.
      
"That (Kalam) is a closed chapter now," Mulayam told reporters here.
       
Now Pranab Mukherjee has been declared candidate and his party is supporting him, the SP chief said.

Kalam's decision appropriate: Cong
   
Terming as "appropriate" the decision by her favoured candidate A P J Abdul Kalam to pull out of the Presidential race, Congress renewed its appeal to Mamata Banerjee to back UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee.
       
The Congress also hailed Kalam's decision to opt out of the race as "appropriate".
   
"Former President Kalam is a very distinguished person. We have highest respect for him. We hold him in high esteem. If in his wisdom, he has taken a decision, it must obviously be an appropriate decision," party spokesperson Manish Tewari said.

He dubbed as "resting on erroneous assumption" questions over Congress' options if Banerjee walks out of the alliance.  He said the party "would like West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress leader to support the candidature of
Mukherjee”.
   
NDA says decision will be a collective one

   
The NDA, after it failed to firm a decision on putting up a candidate against UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee, NDA sought to project a united face, saying whatever decision is taken will be a collective one.

BJP appears set to back Sangma
      
With A P J Abdul Kalam deciding not to contest the Presidential poll, BJP appeared set to back P A Sangma's candidature and convince its dithering NDA allies like JD(U) and Shiv Sena to fall in line and give up plans of a consensus on Pranab Mukherjee.
       
BJP leaders, especially L K Advani and Sushma Swaraj, were keen on having Kalam as the Opposition candidate due to his stature and his wider acceptability among the political parties. However, he declared today that he does not wish to contest as his "conscience" does not permit him to do so.
       
Advani was in constant touch with Kalam over the phone for the past few days. On Monday he had sent party leader and close associate Sudheendra Kulkarni twice to Kalam as his emissary. He also talked to Kalam on the phone but the latter did not agree.
       
Sources said Advani asked Kalam to delay his statement on the decision to opt out but the latter decided to come clean and end all speculation.
       
Jolted by this decision, BJP decided to convene a meeting of its Core Group to discuss the new development and decide the future course of action.
       
Asked what the party intends to do now as Kalam has refused to contest, BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said," Whatever decision we take we will convey to the media. BJP is not alone. The issue will be discussed in detail by the NDA and a decision taken in a democratic manner."
       
JD-U wants no contest against Pranab

JD-U, a crucial constituent of the NDA, wanted that there should be no contest against Pranab because of his stature, but BJP was of the view that there should be a fight.
    
JD-U chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said he favoured a consensus on the issue of candidature for which efforts are on within the Opposition alliance.
   
He said he has a "good relationship" with Mukherjee but his relations with Sangma "is not bad". "In politics, one shares good relations with all," Kumar said.

With Kalam opting out, sources said JD(U) is likely to become even more adamant about not having a contest. Sangma does not enjoy the stature that Kalam does, rendering a contest even more redundant, according to JD(U) sources

Mukherjee excellent Presidential candidate, says Maneka

Batting for Pranab Mukherjee as President, BJP leader Maneka Gandhi met him and later described him as an "excellent candidate" for the post and made a strong pitch for a consensus on him.
   
"Pranab Mukherjee is an excellent candidate," Gandhi, a former Union Minister, told reporters after a meeting with the Finance Minister and UPA's nominee for the July 19 Presidential elections.
   
She said the election of the President should be by consensus.
   
"He is a seasoned politician....I know him for the past 30 years. We need such a president, who will work," she had said about Mukherjee at Badaun.

Pranab is the right choice: Thackeray
   
Giving a major boost to the UPA Presidential candidate, key NDA constituent Shiv Sena described Pranab Mukherjee as the "right candidate" for the top post and sought unanimous support for him.
   
"Let bygones be bygones. Let us unanimously support Pranab Mukherjee and show the world that "hum sab ek hai" (we are all united)," Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray said.
   
"The farce that is on for the top post of President is not justifiable. The country's prestige is at stake for political gains. Those who have no merit are also in the race," Thackeray, who party was understood to be concerned over NDA's approach to the Presidential polls, said.
   
The Sena chief also dismissed allegations of backstabbing against the party.
   
"Nobody should dare level allegations of treachery and backstabbing against the Shiv Sena. The Sena is not out to seek vengeance because such allegations were made earlier," the Sena chief said, in a statement published in the party mouthpiece 'Saamana'.
   
In an editorial in 'Saamana', Thackeray said the Sena, which is celebrating its 46th anniversary today, has crossed borders of Mumbai and Thane and is in a position to decide the country's President.
   
Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut had said that the "The Sena will support Pranab Mukherjee (in the Presidential polls)."
   
The assurance was given to Mukherjee, who called up Sena chief Bal Thackeray and his son Uddhav Thackeray, the party Executive President, Sena sources said.

PM seeks support for Pranab

With UPA nominating Pranab Mukherjee as its Presidential candidate, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reached out to various political parties including the main opposition BJP to seek support.

Soon after his name was announced by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Singh called Leaders of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley respectively, sources said.

He also called up SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, BSP chief Mayawati, CPI leader A B Bardhan and former Prime Minister and JD (S) leader H D Devegowda.

Anti-graft crusader Anna says Pranab a better option
   
While two Team Anna members targetted UPA Presidential nominee Pranab Mukherjee and demanding a probe into allegations against him, anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare appeared to endorse his candidature for the top post terming him as "better than other UPA ministers".
   
"Pranab Mukherjee is a better minister compared to the rest of the ministers in the government. But if the President could be chosen through direct election, then A P J Abdul Kalam could have been elected easily," he told a Marathi news channel.
   
"Mukherjee is an efficient minister. He has played an important role in several key decisions. He has been fielded by UPA. Had it been any other minister, I would not have approved," Hazare added.

Cong hopes Mamata to come on board

With Pranab Mukherjee's nomination as UPA candidate for the Presidential poll gaining support, Congress hoped that Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress would also come on board.

"She is still our ally...the best is yet to come" remarked party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi to a host of questions on the issue soon after Sonia Gandhi announced Mukherjee's candidature.

Left parties to decide on June 21

Left parties will meet on June 21 in Delhi to arrive at a decision on the July 19 Presidential election, General Secretary of Revolutionary Socialist Party T J Chandrachoodan said .

Asked whether his party would propose a name at the meeting, he told reporters at the end of the party's two-day central committee meet here: "We have not decided anything, but we don't want to support a candidate fielded by Congress or BJP."

Sonia hailed for showing Mamata her place

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi is the toast of India's grand old party for calling Mamata Banerjee's bluff on the presidential election. Congress leaders are on cloud nine after Gandhi showed her authority when Trinamool Congress chief Banerjee sought to trip the UPA.

In no time after Banerjee announced unilaterally that her party would prop up former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam for presidency, the Congress hit back with a vengeance.

Gandhi, who is said to be ailing, got into a series of quick behind-the-scenes confabulations with party colleagues, allies and others to pick Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to contest the presidential poll.

‘Trinamool not dependent on Cong’

The Trinamool Congress is not dependent on the Congress, rather the Congress is anxiously waiting for its decision on presidential election, a senior minister in the Mamata Banerjee government claimed.

"We are not dependent on Congress, rather the Congress is eagerly waiting for our decision on Presidential poll," Urban Development and Municipal Affairs Minister Firhad Hakim said.

Briefing media persons after a meeting of party MPs and legislators, Trinamool parliamentary party leader Sudip Bandopadhyay said the party did not want to topple the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) ministry, but its ministers were mentally prepared to put in their papers if the situation so demanded.

"But mentally all the ministers are ready if the situation goes to that extent. If the (UPA) government feels we are staying in the government forcibly, our ministers will not be found wanting in taking the proper decision".

Didi may patch up with Pranab: Trivedi

Congratulating Pranab Mukherjee for his candidature in the presidential race, TMC leader Dinesh Trivedi said, “. Pranab is a politician and an administrator par excellence. He deserves to be nominated for the top-most post. As far as I know Mamata di, she is a very emotional person. I would not be surprised if Mamata di announces her support for Pranab da. I foresee a patch-up between UPA and TMC."

I am still in the Prez race: Sangma
   
NCP leader P A Sangma said that he is still in the race for the President's post and has sought support of Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee for his candidature.
   
"I am still in the race. I have made an appeal to all political parties to support my candidature. Since NDA meeting was scheduled for Sunday, I spoke to many of the NDA leaders yesterday till late in the evening, appealing them that they should extend their support to my candidature," he told reporters here.
       
NCP has been opposing Sangma's candidature, pledging its support to UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee.    

NCP says Sangma will support Pranab

Amid PA Sangma refusing to withdraw from presidential race, the NCP on Tuesday expressed confidence that party leader will ultimately support UPA presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee.

Ahead of a NCP meeting on Thursday, National Congress Party leader D.P. Tripathi met Finance Minister Mukherjee on Tuesday."It was a courtesy call. We are an ally of UPA, so I came to meet him," Tripathi told reporters.

Tripathi said, "He is a senior leader. We are meeting on June 21 and he will attend the meeting. We are confident he will support the UPA candidate." Sangma is the joint candidate of the AIADMK and Biju Janata Dal. Despite appeals from NCP leader Sharad Pawar, he is adamant on fighting the election.

BJD sticks to Sangma as Prez candidate

With NCP leader P A Sangma refusing to pull out of the Presidential race, the ruling BJD in Odisha, which was the first to moot his name for the top post, stuck to its support for the former Lok Sabha Speaker.

"Having proposed Sangma's name as the Presidential candidate, the BJD is whole-heartedly supporting the prominent tribal leader," senior MP and BJD Parliamentary Party leader Arjun Charan Sethi said.

Recalling that BJD supremo and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was the first to moot the name of Sangma for the top post, Sethi said "there has been no change in our party's stand on the issue."

"As long as Sangma is in the race, BJD will continue to support him without deviating from its earlier decision," said another senior BJD leader.

Jethmalani to make up his mind by weekend

BJP MP Ram Jethmalani said he will "take a final call" on contesting the presidential election by the weekend.

Jethmalani also said that former President APJ Abdul Kalam should again be persuaded to take on Finance Minister and UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee.

Jethmalani said he wanted to contest against Mukherjee because the latter had refused to name the Indians who have stashed away blackmoney abroad.

"I oppose Pranab as he refused to reveal the names of those with blackmoney in foreign banks," Jethmalani said.

Asked if he had the BJP's support, Jethmalani replied in the affirmative."But even if nobody supports me, I have no issues."

Commenting about Abdul Kalam's pullout from the presidential race, he said: "We can't force him to contest but still we should persuade him to reconsider."

Number Game

With support of SP and BSP, the UPA candidate is in a position to garner nearly half of the total vote value of 10,98,882. On its own, UPA has a vote value of 4.12 lakh after deducting TMC's 48,049.

But the addition of 1.12 lakh vote value of SP (68,812) and BSP (43,349) will take the vote value of UPA to 5.24 lakh. This leaves the ruling alliance with a slight deficit of 25,000 vote value, assuming all other parties are ranged against the UPA candidate.

The BJP-led NDA has a vote value of 3.04 lakh while the left Parties account for over 51,000 vote.

JPN/Agencies

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