Shahid Abbas in New Delhi
The Congress Party on Thursday extended support to A P J Abdul Kalam, the National Democratic Alliance candidate for the office of the President.
Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, Congress spokesman S Jaipal Reddy said, "The Congress party, after extensive consultations, has decided to support the candidature of Abdul Kalam for the highest office of Rashtrapati of India."
"Having due regard of the totality of the circumstances, we have decided to support Kalam. The circumstances include the candidature as well as his merit," Reddy said in reply to a question.
He said two senior party leaders K Natwar Singh and Manmohan Singh met Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Harkishan Singh Surjeet a short while ago and conveyed the party's decision to support Kalam.
Asked what was Surjeet's response, he said, "What transpired between us is our internal affair."
To a question whether the party had reached any understanding with the Government to support Kalam and get its nominee elected for Vice-Presidentship in return, he said, "There is absolutely no understanding."
"The elections of President and Vice-President are two different issues. We don't like to mix up these issues," he said.
Describing Kalam as 'a good candidate', Reddy said the party took two days to carry out 'extensive and intensive' consultations with Working Committee members, Congress chief ministers and like-minded organisations, including Left parties.
To a repeated question as to why the Congress took two days to decide about its support to Kalam, he said, "The party had authorised its president Sonia Gandhi to take a decision and two days is not a huge time taken."
Asked whether its decision would adversely affect the ties with Left parties, Reddy said, "Our relations with them have always been ideologically-oriented and we are sure they will remain so."
Replying to a question if the party's decision to back Kalam was taken sensing defeat in the event of a contest for the top post, he said, "We are never afraid of defeat in elections and no party should be afraid of that. We don't think that defeatism approach was the reason behind our decision."
The Congress decision leaves the Left parties out in the cold, whose decision not to support Kalam led to the breakup of People's Front on Wednesday, with Samajwadi Party, one of the constituents of the PF, deciding to back the rocket scientist.
With Congress putting its weight behind Kalam, the 'missile man' is expected to sail through the election process.
The Election Commission has already issued a notification of the presidential election with the last date for filing nominations being June 25. The scrutiny of the nominations would be conducted on June 26 and last date for withdrawal of candidatures will be on June 28 and election, if necessary, would be held on July 15.
With inputs from PTI
Coverage of the election for the 11th President of India
Back to top
Tell us what you think of this report