Chennai: Springing a surprise, the Third Front on Monday ushered a new element in the presidential race by coming out in support of a second term for A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. It also dismissed UPA-Left nominee Pratibha Patil as a “joke played on the country by Sonia Gandhi”, while maintaining that many parties have “reservation” about supporting vice-president Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, who is being backed by Opposition NDA. Meanwhile, Pratibha Patil found herself at the centre of controversy over her remarks on the veil, with historians and Muslim groups terming them historically inaccurate. The governor had at a function in Udaipur said on Sunday the “purdah” system began in India after the Mughal invasion to protect women from the invaders. B.P. Sahu, a historian at Delhi University, disagreed, as did the Jamaat-e-Ulema-i-Hind.