West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wanted Dr APJ Abdul Kalam to join 'the race for Raisina Hill'. The Subramaniam Swamy-led Janata Party and the BJP too were hoping that he would stand in the presidential election on July 19, 2012.
These outfits knew that if Kalam entered the fray, there was a likelihood of some other parties voting in his favour mainly because he served efficiently as the 11th President of India. Sections of the opposition saw in him their best chance of preventing Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee from scoring a facile victory.
Besides, Mulayam Singh Yadav may be currently backing the UPA's candidate but he had earlier proposed Kalam's name. The fact that the Samajwadi Party leader backtracked within 36 hours does not count for much. Considering his long history of flip-flops on important issues, Mulayam changing his stand once again was not beyond the realm of possibility.
However, the hopes of Kalam supporters were dashed by the announcement on Jun 18 that he had never aspired to serve a second term. The Trinamool Congress chief who had even launched a campaign on Facebook, urging people to convince Kalam to contest, conveyed her disappointment through the following post on the social networking site:
"Kalam Saheb, you have touched our hearts and our spirit. I have seen your statement that you are not contesting. This news has hurt all of us deeply. You were a People's President and bridged the gap between high office and common people.
After waiting for 3-4 painful days, some political parties simply failed the people at this critical moment in responding to the clarion call given by so many common citizens of our nation to stand up for a man of impeccable integrity, highest moral character and an inspiration for the young generation of this country.
In these trying and difficult times, public trust in the political class and institutions is under serious stress. There is a lack of faith of the common people in political entities who partake in rampant corruption and underhand dealings.
Some self-seeking politicians have discarded all ethics and thereby have alienated themselves from the people. I have unshakeable belief in the indomitable will of the people of my country. They will rise to cleanse Indian politics and bring back honesty, values and ethics.
Again, I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart, all my brothers and sisters, for your spontaneous and positive response for the great cause of our nation."
With Kalam no longer in contention, the BJP is left with the option of endorsing PA Sangma's candidature. Since he is the original choice of BJD and AIADMK, the combined votes of both parties are a given.
Whether the NDA minus the Shiv Sena, that has already indicated a preference for Pranab, can put up a good fight remains to be seen. BJP leaders feel it is imperative that they do, otherwise they will never be able to convince the country that they are an effective opposition.
Right now Pranab is the overwhelming favourite to win but anything can happen in the four weeks before the electoral college chooses the next occupant of Rashtrapati Bhavan. After all, former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson famously said that "a week is a long time in politics."