BJP leaders, especially LK 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. Today 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 democractic manner."
An NDA meeting will be held on Tuesday.
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.