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|'Missile man' elected India's president|
|07/18/02 at 17:31:52|
Eminent scientist APJ Abdul Kalam has been elected India's new president.
Announcing the result, India's election commission said Dr Kalam had defeated his only rival, Lakshmi Sahgal, with 89% of the vote being cast in his favour.
Votes were counted on Thursday, three days after Indian legislators cast their votes for the largely ceremonial post.
Dr Kalam is the retired architect of India's missile programme, and is supported by most of the major political parties, including the governing coalition and the opposition Congress party.
He becomes India's third Muslim president.
Pakistan, India's neighbour and rival, has welcomed Dr Kalam's election.
A message from President Musharraf said he hoped the two men could work together for "tension-free relations between our two countries".
'An odd choice'
The new head of state was elected by an electoral college of about 5,000 central and state legislators.
The president of India is a titular head of state with few actual powers but his authority to decide which party or individual should be asked to form the central government after general elections gives his post significance.
This is especially the case when no single party has an overall majority in parliament.
Dr Kalam is acknowledged as the driving force behind India's quest for cutting edge defence technologies, and has helped turn Indian into a nuclear power.
He has no political experience and was seen by some as an odd choice for the presidency.
But others feel he will bring refreshing colour to the largely ceremonial post.
With his signature long, unruly silver hair and casual clothes, Dr Kalam has spent most of the past year teaching and speaking passionately about integrity and values.
He is known for his strong personal discipline, and is a strict vegetarian, teetotaller and a bachelor with a reputation for working day and night.
He was pitch-forked into politics just a few weeks ago.
Although a Muslim, he is well versed in Hindu scriptures, which correspondents say appeals to right-wing Hindus in the ruling coalition.
Analysts say Dr Kalam may be a popular figure but he is headstrong and too independent in his thinking and could prove to be a difficult customer for the ruling coalition.
Correspondents add that the choice of a Muslim is an important signal at a time when the country is still recovering from Hindu-Muslim riots earlier this year in the western state of Gujarat, the country's worst communal violence in a decade.
|Re: 'Missile man' elected India's president|
|07/19/02 at 14:25:17|
So my question is, is he a muslim or a hindu??
I read an article in a news paper not too long ago which stated that his family belonged to a minority muslim group but they have now converted to hinduism.
But according to http://www.top-biography.com/ their web site states "He is a vegetarian and teetotaler, who recites the Quran and the Bhagwad Gita with equal devotion and has an unparalleled career as a defense scientist to be crowned with the highest civilian award of India" – The Bharat Ratna.
|Re: 'Missile man' elected India's president|
|07/19/02 at 14:49:43|
though i don't know the answer to your question, here are two more articles from papers today which you or someone else might be more skilled than i in reading between the lines to figure that out. the ny times article says he is muslim, and that his family is tamil. the dawn article, interestingly, avoids the question entirely.
July 19, 2002
Nuclear Scientist, 70, a Folk Hero, Is Elected India's President
By DAVID ROHDE
EW DELHI, July 18 — An exuberant and eccentric 70-year-old scientist who
is considered the father of India's nuclear missile program was overwhelmingly
elected president today by legislators.
The vote for the largely ceremonial office reflected both the growing disdain of the
country for professional politicians and its ambition to be taken seriously on the
The scientist, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, a boatman's son who rose to become a nuclear
folk hero in India, emerged as the surprise candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party,
ruling Hindu nationalist party, only a month ago. He won nearly 90 percent of the
votes cast by legislators.
A best-selling author, he functions as a kind of nationalist self-help guru who vows
to use science, technology and nuclear and space research to allow India to develop,
assert itself and achieve greatness.
He has emerged as a cult figure since he helped oversee India's successful nuclear
tests in 1998. His latest book, "Ignited Minds: Unleashing the Power Within India,"
blares his can-do, nationalist message.
"India has to be transformed into a developed nation," Dr. Kalam said after being
elected today, "a prosperous nation and a healthy nation, with a value system."
Dr. Kalam, an ethnic Tamil, will be the third Muslim to serve as president of
Hindu-dominated India. Nominating him allowed the ruling party to bolster its
credentials after being condemned for allowing Hindu extremists to kill hundreds of
Muslims in Gujarat earlier this year.
But critics question Dr. Kalam's scientific credentials, say he has never truly fought
for Muslim causes and call him a political novice unprepared for Indian political
combat. Leftists accuse him of nuclear jingoism and challenge his support for vast
high-technology projects, like an unmanned Indian mission to the moon, which they
contend will waste millions.
"His scientific ideology is more of society being at the disposal of science," said Sita
Ram Yechury, a spokesman for the leftist parties opposing Dr. Kalam, "rather than
science being at the disposal of society."
But such criticism is faint in a country where Dr. Kalam has become a mythic
figure. A bachelor, vegetarian and amateur musician and poet, Dr. Kalam brings an
unorthodox style to the 340-room presidential palace. Until now, he has professed to
live the life of an ascetic, reading poetry and strumming the vina, a traditional
guitarlike instrument, in his spare time. His trademark is the long mop of gray hair
that flops down each side of his face.
Dr. Kalam's best-selling autobiography, "Wings of Fire," and a children's book,
"Eternal Quest," recount his life and times.
Born on Oct. 15, 1931, in Rameswaram, a spit of land that juts out between Madras
and Sri Lanka, he excelled in school while selling newspapers to support his father.
The idyllic account of his life that follows features inspirational verse from the
Koran, the Bhagavad-Gita, T. S. Eliot, Lewis Carroll, Benjamin Franklin, Dr. Kalam
himself and others.
It describes Muslims and Hindus growing up in harmony, and teachers and family
members helping him get into boarding school and college. Dr. Kalam went on to
aeronautical engineering at the prestigious Madras Institute of Technology. He never
received a Ph.D., but he is always referred to as "doctor" in India, having received
30 honorary doctorates and the country's three highest civilian honors.
His only visit to the United States came in 1963, when he spent about five months
touring NASA rocket centers.
Throughout his career, Dr. Kalam, who declined a request for an interview, worked
tirelessly to ensure that Indian technology could succeed, according to Dr. K.
Kasturirangan, now the head of India's space program and a colleague of Dr. Kalam's
for 35 years.
"He is a humble, he lives a spartan life," Dr. Kasturirangan said, listing the
qualities that attract an Indian public weary of political corruption. "He is deeply
to any cause he undertakes in life."
After working on the team that developed India's first satellite vehicle in the 1970's,
Dr. Kalam ran a program that developed five missiles to counter Chinese and
Pakistani systems in the 1980's. When the Bharatiya Janata Party took office in
1998, he served as scientific adviser to the Ministry of Defense and lobbied for
Indian tests that year set off an international outcry and an arms race with Pakistan.
But Dr. Kalam argues that nuclear weapons are a deterrent that helped prevent
another war between India and Pakistan this spring.
Dr. Kalam, who takes office July 25, will have limited power under India's
parliamentary system. Expected to serve as an evenhanded arbiter, the president
in Parliament, can call elections and can decide which party can form a government.
Dr. Kalam will also have the bully pulpit to argue for development projects that he
says will eliminate poverty in India by 2020. Groups he helped establish have
developed prosthetic limbs from lightweight materials from the missile programs.
Another distributes information on weather, crops and genetically altered farm
animals to farmers.
Opponents may continue to attack him as a yes man for Hindu nationalists, a
proponent of militarism and creator of an Indian military-industrial complex. But
upbeat message is likely to continue to drown them out.
"Nations consist of people," his new book begins. "And with their effort, a nation can
accomplish all it could ever want."
Dawn, July 19, 2002
Musharraf hopes for peace as Dr Kalam wins presidency
By Jawed Naqvi
NEW DELHI, July 18: Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen
Abdul Kalam, India's controversial "missile man" was declared elected on Thursday
as the country's
12th president by nearly 90 per cent votes ,
defeating a communist-backed woman who had once waged armed struggle against the
Kalam's name was proposed by Prime Minister
Atal Behari Vajpayee's National Democratic Alliance, which ruled out a second term
left-leaning liberal President K.R. Narayanan.
Kalam's candidature was supported by the main
opposition Congress party and some other small opposition groups.
President Pervez Musharraf promptly
congratulated Kalam, India's third Muslim president, and expressed optimism that
the two could work
together to foster tension-free relations
between both the countries.
"I wish to convey my sincere greetings on your
election as the President of the Republic of India," Musharraf said in a letter
addressed to the man
credited with developing India's lethal arsenal
of nuclear-capable missiles, mostly targeting Pakistan.
"I hope to work with you for the establishment
of tension-free relations between our two countries as well as for resolving the
differences that stand
in the way of normal bilateral relations."
"I am indeed delighted to get elected as the next
President", the 71-year old Kalam told reporters after he was formally told about
his election by
89.53 per cent votes against 'Captain' Lakshmi
Sahgal, a doctor who commanded a women's contingent in the Indian National Army
led by Subhash
"My message to the country is that "we need a
vision, a second vision for the nation to get India transformed into a developed
country in 20 years,"
Security has been beefed up for the new
incumbent to the British-built Presidential Palace. Newspapers have named
Lashkar- i-Taiba and Hizbul
Mujahideen as some of the militant groups that
have threatened to target Kalam.
Asked to comment on his election as India's
first non- politician president, Kalam said: "I am working from 1982 onwards
directly with the
government whether it be related with
research, launch vehicles or nuclear programmes. Unless political decisions are
taken, satellites will not be
"Political decision are vital for the success of
any programme. I have worked with six prime ministers, I know how to handle
politics", he said.
Asked about criticism of his agenda by some
Left parties, including their presidential nominee Laxmi Sahgal, he said: "I don't
have any rival. They are
my friends, they are all nationalists, they all
want India to develop."
Kalam got 4,152 votes with a vote value of
9,22,884, against Sahgal's 459 votes accounting for 1,07,366 votes.
Sahgal congratulated Kalam on his victory and
assured her supporters that she would continue to work for the goals she had
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