Former president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam
is, according to sources, likely to announce his decision today on whether he will contest the Presidential election. Political parties, especially the BJP, are urging him to contest. Senior BJP leader Sudheendra Kulkarni met the former president at his home this afternoon.
If Dr Kalam agrees, the presidential election, which has already seen F-1 turns, would hit top gear. The BJP is itching to take on the ruling UPA, which has announced Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee
as its candidate. However, its ally, Nitish Kumar of the JD(U) does not want to field a candidate against Mr Mukherjee.
If Dr Kalam enters the race, Mr Kumar, who is the chief minister of Bihar, will have to decide who to back. He lunched with the nuclear scientist last week in Patna. Sources say the chief minister is still not in favour of opposing the Finance Minister. (Your choice for President? Vote here)
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, currently estranged from the UPA, continues to plug Dr Kalam on Facebook. Sources close to her say she wants to be seen as "equi-distant" from both the UPA and the BJP-led NDA, and could abstain during the election if Dr Kalam decides not to run for office. Ms Banerjee will meet her MPs and MLAs in Kolkata this evening. The election for President places all votes of MPs at par with members of state legislatures. Ms Banerjee holds about 4% of the vote.
The BJP, which is keen to put up a fight against the UPA as a mini general election ahead of 2014, has been keen on backing Mr Kalam, should he decide to join the contest. If the BJP supports the scientist, it would get politically closer to Ms Banerjee, who has hit breaking point with the UPA over its decision to field the Finance Minister as its candidate.
If Dr Kalam decides not to run for a new term, some leaders within the BJP are open to backing former Speaker PA Sangma
, who has officially got the support of Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. The BJP has been suggesting that Ms Banerjee support Mr Sangma too. However, another BJP ally, the Shiv Sena, has indicated it will not back Mr Sangma.