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I did not receive papers on Afzal's mercy plea: Kalam

Last updated on: July 27, 2007 18:02 IST
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Former President A P J Abdul Kalam has answered critics over the delay in deciding on the mercy plea of Mohammed Afzal Guru, facing a death sentence for his role in the terror attack on Parliament, contending that he had not received any papers from the government.

'Regarding Afzal Guru, I have not received any papers from the ministry concerned so far,' Kalam said, while responding to a question asked during an interview to India Today magazine on requests for clemency for persons facing the death penalty, including Guru, which had been pending with him.

Kalam, who had sent Guru's mercy plea to the home ministry for its views, went on to say, 'If the papers had come to me, I would have processed them for their worth.' 

When asked about the decision to dissolve the Bihar assembly as something he could have acted differently on, the former President said, 'I have no regrets. At that time, I was in Russia and I took the decision there...I had detailed discussions with the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the issue and whatever other information I needed was electronically transmitted to me. Based on that, I took the decision.'

Kalam went on to explain that he asked 'certain questions' and the prime minister discussed it with him twice.

The 75-year-old missile scientist justified his decision to return the Office of Profit Bill to Parliament.  

'I had to return it to Parliament for the first time. Naturally, they had to debate and discuss it in Parliament. It had created the necessary impact.'

While asking Parliament to reconsider the bill, Kalam had wanted both Houses to look into the legal propriety of giving effect to it retrospectively. He wanted criteria to be evolved that will be just, fair and reasonable. 

The 'people's President' was non-committal on whether he would accept the Prime Minister's post if, at some point, there was a need for a consensus candidate.

'This is a juicy question for you. But it looks hypothetical to me. My plate is already full...,' he said, referring to his decision to teach in five institutions.

On the country getting its first woman President, he said: "It is indeed good news."

Kalam did not favour any revision of the President's powers.

'The Constitution has withstood the test of time for over 50 years. As far as I am concerned, I didn't find any impediments in my way of working.'

He, however, felt that the President can play a greater role.

'What he thinks, he wants to do… he can do. If he thinks big, he can do it. The post does not restrict the person at all. If the President has vision, he can propagate it and nobody can prevent that,' he said.

About his working with two prime ministers -- Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh -- Kalam said both leaders had 'unique core competence' and were the 'thinking type.'

Observing that he had an 'excellent relationship' with both prime ministers and enjoyed working with them, he said they were men of few words but were action-oriented.

On the issue of reservation for OBCs in educational institutions, Kalam had a simple solution -- the number of seats in colleges should be increased.

Kalam argued that 'self-reliance' was the only way for nuclear energy.

On concerns voiced by some political parties that the Indo-US nuclear deal will compromise the country's strategic capability, Dr Kalam said: 'We have to take the thorium route since we have large reserves of it available...Our scientists can lead to thorium-based nuclear reactor for energy production. I believe in them.'

Candidly admitting that he was concerned over the quality of political discourse in the country and the lack of focus on certain critical issues, he said development was not being talked about as it should be.

'It is not being given the highest priority in all political decisions. For instance, no political party has defined which year India will become economically-developed.

Nor have they discussed how competitive India should be compared to other countries,' he said.

He was of the view that every political leader has to spend at least 70 per cent on developmental politics.

'But the reverse is taking place,' he said, adding, 'I wish our electorate will choose leaders on the basis of their developmental track record.'

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