When Vajpayee’s nominee Kalam cruised to victory

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a leader who grew above party lines — a fact  proved when he successfully got the Congress and other regional parties, except the Left Front, to get APJ Abdul Kalam.

Published: 17th August 2018 06:01 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th August 2018 06:01 AM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a leader who grew above party lines — a fact  proved when he successfully got the Congress and other regional parties, except the Left Front, to get APJ Abdul Kalam elected as the President in 2002.Vajpayee’s masterstroke of fielding Kalam as the NDA nominee had caught the Congress and other parties off guard. The NDA’s original presidential nominee was PC Alexander, while the Congress was rooting for a second term for KR Narayanan. The Congress also seemed to be pushing for the elevation of vice-president Krishan Kant to the highest office in the country.

Telugu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu and Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh were tilted in favour of Kant’s elevation and were not too keen on Alexander. Vajpayee was keen on the NDA candidate being unanimously elected, and, hence, zeroed in on Kalam.A phone call to the Missile Man, under whom the Pokhran nuclear tests were conducted, changed the political landscape drastically. Mulayam sided with the NDA’s choice, saying that he could not oppose a Muslim like Kalam. So did the Congress, which could not find a reason to oppose Kalam’s candidature despite bickering in the party.

Naidu’s only condition to side with the NDA was that a consensus candidate is found and nothing be finalised without consulting the TDP. With Kalam’s candidature, Vajpayee fulfilled both his wishes and got the TDP on his side. Trinamool Congress’s Mamata Banerjee, Shiv Sena’s Bal Thackeray and BJD’s Naveen Patnaik, who were also against Kant’s elevation, preferred Kalam and agreed to support his candidature. Kalam belonged to Tamil Nadu and parties of his home state –  the DMK and the AIADMK – had no qualms in supporting his candidature.

Vajpayee, with his political shrewdness, managed to get parties across the country on the same page for the 2002 presidential elections. The only opposition he found was from the Left, which fielded freedom fighter Lakshmi Sahgal. Kalam secured around 90 per cent of the votes and became the 11th President of the country. 


Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

  • Sree

    Just an FYI: Naidu is the one who proposed APJ Kalam Presidency. Vajpayee accepted that offer. May be little research is needed
    3 years ago reply
flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp