APJ Abdul Kalam could have returned as the president in 2012 with the backing of the BJP and the Trinamool Congress but with no support from the Congress and its allies, he pulled himself out of the race, a new book claims.
Congress veteran Pranab Mukherjee was then chosen as the 13th President of India, succeeding Pratibha Patil for a five-year-term at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
"After his presidency ended in 2007, Kalam’s enthusiasm for India's classical culture, his liberal praise for leaders of some Hindu religious bodies, and his earlier work for India’s defence made him Hindu India’s favourite Muslim," historian Rajmohan Gandhi writes in “Modern South India: A History from the 17th Century to Our Times”.
"Some political parties, including the BJP and the Trinamool Congress, proposed a willing Kalam for a fresh presidential term in 2012, but the Congress and its allies did not take to the idea. Aware that he lacked the numbers, Kalam did not stand, and Pranab Mukherjee became president,” he says.
Gandhi writes that it was the Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh who had proposed Kalam’s name to succeed KR Narayanan in 2002. As the defence minister in the HD Deve Gowda and IK Gujral ministries, Yadav had known and liked his DRDO chief, he says.
“The BJP not possessing, in 2002, the numbers to get one of its own elected to Rashtrapati Bhavan, Prime Minister (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee was more than glad to sponsor Kalam, and (Congress chief) Sonia Gandhi was willing to support him,” the author writes.
“He became an accessible head of state and a peripatetic one as well, earning the ‘people’s president’ tag. He was in addition an exhorting president, offering unexceptionable and at times quotable advice. Student audiences loved him,” he says of Kalam, who passed away at the age of 83 on July 27, 2015.
In “Modern South India”, published by Aleph, Gandhi navigates the history of southern India from the 13th century to the present day encompassing cultural, linguistic, political, geographic and other similarities and differences.
He says the South India story attempted in the book is of a peninsular region influenced by the oceans, not by the Himalayas, yet it is more than that.
“It is a story of facets of four powerful cultures—Kannada, Malayali, Tamil and Telugu, to name them again in alphabetical order—and yet more than that, for Kodagu, Konkani, Marathi, Oriya and Tulu cultures have also influenced it, as also other older and possibly more indigenous cultures often seen as ‘tribal’, as well as cultures originating in other parts of India and the world,” Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, says.
The book also makes references to burning inter-state disputes such as the Cauvery river water issue, as it does talk about post-Independence leaders who have dominated southern India’s political landscape over the years.