Shahid K Abbas in New Delhi
Realisation that a contest would not prevent A P J Abdul Kalam from becoming the next President and the fear of alienating Muslims prompted the Congress to dump the Left parties and endorse the candidature of the eminent scientist.
Earlier, the party had toyed with the idea of fielding either President K R Narayanan (for a second term) or Maharashtra Governor Dr P C Alexander.
However, with the ruling National Democratic Alliance in a position to ensure Kalam's victory, the Congress feared a contest would push Kalam into the lap of the BJP.
"We have adopted a positive [and] proactive approach and not a reactive one," party spokesperson S Jaipal Reddy said justifying his party's decision to support Kalam.
Kalam has been a top-notch technologist and has enjoyed the patronage of the Congress party, he said.
Defence Minister George Fernandes has, in fact, relegated him to the sidelines, Reddy pointed out.
The only hitch was the stand taken by the Left, whom the Congress is not inclined to annoy, and the Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.
The former believes that Kalam does not have the requisite experience for the job, especially in these days of coalition politics. They fear he may end up as a 'rubberstamp' President.
But the Congress does not fear a permanent divide between the two on this issue.
"We do not think that our relationship with Left parties will be adversely affected as it is based on ideological like-mindedness," Reddy said.
On the other hand, the party is unhappy with Mulayam Singh Yadav for jumping the gun and going so far as to claim Kalam as his own candidate.
Only a few days back, he had, along with the Congress, endorsed the idea of a second term for President Narayanan.
He, however, did not care to wait for President K R Narayanan's response to the idea of seeking a second term (which came on Tuesday night) before announcing his support for Kalam's candidature, Reddy said.
Narrating the chronology of events that preceded the Congress decision, Reddy said that Kalam's name was proposed on June 10.
Narayanan announced his decision not to contest on June 11 and on June 12 the Congress Working Committee (CWC) began internal consultations on the issue.
"We announced our decision within 36 hours of President Narayanan declining to contest," Reddy said.
Coverage of the election for the 11th President of India
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