New Delhi: Indian President Abdul Kalam said on 23 June he would not stand for re-election, increasing the chances of the country getting its first ever woman head of state.
Kalam, 76, was appointed president in 2002 by the then Hindu nationalist government. A presidential spokesman said he withdrew as he was reluctant to drag the presidency into a “political process.”
“After reviewing the situation carefully from all angles, he decided that in the current scenario, he will not be interested in running for the second term,” spokesman S.M. Khan said.
Provincial and federal legislators will vote July 19 to elect India’s 12th president for a five-year term. The results are expected three days later.
The post of president holds limited authority over day-to-day affairs, but can play a crucial role in government formation at state and federal levels, making the selection a hotly-fought contest.
The ruling Congress party nominee and favourite is Pratibha Patil, 72, who is currently governor of the desert state of Rajasthan. If victorious, she would become India’s first woman president.
India has already had a female prime minister, with Indira Gandhi, the daughter of the country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, ruling from 1966 to 1977 and from 1980 to 1984.
Indian Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat is also in the race as an independent candidate, but stands little chance of winning, analysts say.
Kalam, a Muslim, is fondly called “missile man” for his contributions in developing an array of ballistic missiles and staging a series of nuclear tests in 1998.