New Delhi: The race to the Rashtrapati Bhawan on Monday seemed far from over. Even as former president APJ Abdul Kalam opted out of the race saying his conscience did not allow him to contest, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after its core group meeting appeared to be swinging in favour of former Lok Sabha speaker P A Sangma.
Despite the BJP sending its messenger in the form of Sudheendra Kulkarni to meet Kalam twice on Monday, the former president announced that he would not go ahead with the presidential elections. Though he cited his conscience for the decision, it was evident that he took the step as he did not wish to fight a losing election, with the numbers not favouring him enough for a win. He, however, thanked Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee for her overwhelming support.
"I have decided not to contest for the post of President. I thank Mamata Banerjee for her faith in me," Kalam said in a statement.
Advani is likely to talk to Jayalalithaa and Patnaik to explore if Sangma can be a joint candidate in the presidential elections.
He further said, "My conscience is not permitting me to contest."
The move by the former president did not appear to go down well with Trinamool Congress Mamata Banerjee, who had been crusading through Facebook to garner support for Kalam.
She said the decision by Kalam to back out of the race had hurt her, and her party reiterated that they would still make attempts to convince the former president to rejoin the race.
The Congress was, however, quick in its response, welcoming the announcement by Kalam. The party termed Kalam's decision to pull out of the race as appropriate.
Addressing mediapersons, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said, "We have the highest respect for him. If he in his wisdom has taken a decision, it must be an appropriate decision."
The exit of the scientist from the race certainly cleared the way for NCP leader P A Sangma for at least a contest against UPA candidate, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
And the possible candidature gained more momentum after the core group meeting of the BJP. According to sources, the party is keen on a contest against the UPA candidate. Party president Nitin Gadkari and veteran leader L K Advani wish to support Sangma in the presidential poll.
Sources further said that Advani would talk to AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to explore whether Sangma could be a joint candidate.
This after the NCP leader reiterated that he was still in the race even as the Biju Janata Dal stuck with its initial stand of supporting Sangma in the presidential poll.
Sangma's party, however, had a different tune to sing. It expressed hope that the North East strongman would end up respecting the party's decision to back Pranab in the presidential elections.
NCP leader D P Tripathy said, "The nation salutes Kalam for his decision. We hope Sangma will respect the party's position on UPA's candidate Pranab Mukherjee."
Amidst the developments suggesting enough support for Sangma for a contest against Pranab, came a resignation drama from the Trinamool Congress.
Reports suggested that all the Union ministers from the party had submitted there resignations to Mamata Banerjee. But within minutes, Trinamool Congress MP Sudip Bandopadhyay addressed media, dismissing the submission of resignation.
He, however, said that the party was mentally prepared to quit the ruling UPA coalition if the situation required so. He also, though in different words, said that the government was functioning because of the support of the Trinamool Congress.
"The Congress is not capable of running the government. It is the TMC that has extended its support. We should not be given any indirect threats," said the Trinamool MP.
He said, "We are ready to quit the moment we think that the situation is no more conducive."
The Congress chose to downplay the threat by Trinamool Congress, calling the party an inseparable ally. It went on to say that it still expected Mamata to vote in favour of its candidate, Pranab.
Congress leader Shakil Ahmed said, "The TMC is an inseparable ally of the Congress. We hope that Mamata will vote in favour of Pranab Mukherjee… Kalam himself had said today that he doesn't want to contest."
All eyes are now on the Left Front meeting on June 21. The stand of the Left parties gains more significance with a possible contest in the scene. If they choose to go with Pranab, the elections will certainly be sealed.