New Delhi: APJ Abdul Kalam took quite some time to make up his mind on whether to contest the presidential elections in 2012 despite the numbers stacked oddly against him as he greatly wished to fight corruption at the grass roots and had drafted two contrasting speeches to justify his decision, says his aide.
One of the two letters addressed to the nation was for the occasion if Kalam chose to contest and the other if he decided against him. The letter, which was drafted in the eventuality of Kalam agreeing to contest, was a long one.
"So my dear Indians, I have decided to contest this election with ALL OF YOU. I enter the fray knowing well that the numbers are against me. I will contest knowing well that I lack the majority. I will run the race knowing well that I will lose. But I have already won in the hearts of the people and I am now duty-bound to contest this election for them," the draft address said.
"I don't belong to any political party. I neither endorse nor oppose any political ideology. I am just a scientist and I always wish to be remembered as a teacher. Now that I have decided to face the elections, I have become a candidate. A candidate has to campaign in an election by meeting party leaders and seeking their support. I don't have a party or cadre-strength to campaign or lobby for votes. I appeal to you, my dear Indians, to campaign for me," it said.
Kalam went on to write: "I have realised that my decision to contest this election is our collective decision. I am the people's candidate now. I hope you will continue to shower the same love on me whether I win or lose. Maybe I am bound to lose - I don't know. But I am certainly bound to be true, loyal and affectionate to you. This is not a political statement or campaign mantra. But a few words that come straight from my heart."
He concluded with a verse from the Bhagavad Gita.
The other letter which was drafted it he was not contesting was a mere 100-odd worded one.
"You are aware of the developments in the run-up to the presidential elections. Though I have never aspired to serve another term or showed interest in contesting the elections, TMC chief Mamata Banerjee and other political parties wanted me to be their candidate. Many, many citizens have also expressed the same wish. It only reflects their love and affection for me and the aspiration of the people.
"I'm really overwhelmed by this support. This being their wish, I respect it. I want to thank them for the trust they have in me. I have considered the totality of the matter.
Considering the present political situation, I have decided not to contest the presidential elections. May God bless you all," it said.
These two letters as well as the whole episode of how events unfolded in Kalam finally deciding not to contest are mentioned in a new book What Can I Give? Life Lessons from My Teacher A P J Abdul Kalam by the former president's aide
Srijan Pal Singh.
The book, published by Penguin Random House, releases on 27 July, Kalam's first death anniversary, and the author royalties from it will go into a charitable foundation: Kalam Library, which provides education for underprivileged kids.
With the then Congress-led UPA government deciding on Pranab Mukherjee's name to succeed Pratibha Patil as the 12th President of India and the move almost gaining consensus, Mamata Banerjee and Mulayam Singh set the race on fire by declaring their support for Kalam. This decision soon gave the BJP its choice of candidate, whom they could pitch against any UPA candidate.
Soon the BJP led by its president, LK Advani, extended its support to Kalam, so did the RSS. Advani even offered to go on a national campaign to garner support for Kalam, if the latter agreed to contest.
"But everybody, including those openly supporting Kalam, knew that the numbers were stacked oddly against him," writes Singh.
"Media polls were also in agreement with this assessment. With the Congress party against him, and the UPA having a clear majority in both houses and in most of the state assemblies, the highest percentage of votes that Dr Kalam could get was just 42 percent.
"The media opined that Dr Kalam could win only if he promoted crossvoting within all the parties. Many media experts believed that with Dr Kalam's popularity, it was likely for the MPs and MLAs to cross-vote. But we, his close associates, knew that he would never encourage the petty politics of crossvoting," he writes.
According to Singh, Kalam seemed to be visibly moved following Banerjee's emotional appeals and so hesitated in taking an instant decision.
"But the primary reason behind Dr Kalam's hesitation in pulling out of this sure loss was something else. It was because the People's President so greatly wished to fight corruption at the grass roots of the nation. Our discussion had taken a new angle - even if Dr Kalam fought a losing election, could he help awaken the nation against corruption and win the battle against this cancer?
"It was only then I realised how deeply disturbed he was by the rampant corruption cases - tumbling one after another and tirelessly gnawing away at Dr Kalam's dream of India 2020. I saw his hidden anger, and not just his disappointment, at the cancer of corruption," Singh writes.