In 2002, the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee rejected proposals from his team to assume the role of president, advocating that such a transition within a parliamentary democracy like India would set a perilous precedent, as revealed in a new book by his media adviser, veteran journalist Ashok Tandon.
Tandon's book, The Reverse Swing: Colonialism to Cooperation, recounts anecdotes from his time in Vajpayee's Prime Minister's Office from 1998 to 2004.
Vajpayee staunchly opposed the idea of an incumbent prime minister becoming president, contending that it would be detrimental to India's parliamentary democratic system and establish an unsafe precedent.
He firmly declined the suggestion of moving to Rashtrapati Bhavan and passing on the premiership to his deputy, Lal Krishna Advani, from within his own team.
Later, with still two years left in his term as prime minister, Vajpayee invited Congress leaders to reach a consensus for the presidential post.
During this meeting, Vajpayee surprised them by revealing that the NDA had chosen Dr A P J Abdul Kalam as their candidate for the presidential election.
The move was initially met with surprise and then support, making Kalam the eventual president.
Tandon's book also sheds light on speculation before Kalam's nomination, including considerations of Maharashtra Governor Dr P C Alexander as a potential candidate.
There were attempts to sway Vajpayee towards this choice by arguing that it would pose a challenge to Sonia Gandhi's chances of becoming prime minister due to concerns about having both the president and prime minister belonging to the Christian faith.
Bhuvan Krishna is Staff Writer at Swarajya.
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