Accompanied by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, more than a dozen chief ministers, several Union ministers and top BJP leaders, NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind filed his nomination papers for the Presidential polls.
Assuring that he would keep the highest constitutional office above “party politics”, Kovind, 71, said he would “strive to see to it that a dream to build new India” is fulfilled by 2022.
In an attempt to reach out to the Opposition, Kovind, in a brief address to the media at Parliament House after filing his nomination, said, “Since I became the Governor (of Bihar, in 2015) I do not belong to any political party…. It is my belief that the post of President is above party politics, and I will strive to keep it so. I appeal to all members of the electoral college for support.”
The BJP, which pulled all stops to make the process of nomination filing a show of strength, claimed that Kovind will win around 70 per cent votes in the electoral college, which consists of all Parliamentarians and MLAs across the states.
Reading out from a prepared text, Kovind told the media that his priority would be working for the country’s “all-round development, fulfilment of youths’ aspirations, addressing their concerns, and encouragement to modern education”. He said, “I will strive to see to it that the dream to build a new India, which is developing continuously, is fulfilled when we celebrate 75 years of independence in 2022.”
Calling the BJP’s victory in Assembly elections in different states earlier this year as indication of the emergence of a “new India”, Modi had, in March, said, “I don’t live by election calculations. My target is 2022, not 2019 — 2022 will mark 75 years of India’s independence. We have five years to contribute to change India.”
Starting with a scheduled meeting with Uttar Pradesh MLAs and MPs in Lucknow on June 25, Kovind is expected to visit most states to seek votes before the July 17 election. Union minister Nitin Gadkari will accompany him to UP.
Earlier in the day, BJP chief Amit Shah, party veterans L K Advani, M M Joshi, Union ministers and chief ministers of all BJP-ruled states and its allies — barring Goa’s Manohar Parrikar and Jammu and Kashmir’s Mehbooba Mufti — accompanied Kovind as he walked from Library Building to Parliament House to file his nomination. Parrikar was down with viral fever, and Mufti had to cancel her trip to New Delhi after Deputy SP Mohammad Ayub Pandit was lynched outside a mosque in Srinagar on Friday.
BJP leaders were thrilled as Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao (of TRS) and his Tamil Nadu counterpart Edappadi K Palaniswami (AIADMK) also reached Parliament House. Neither party belongs to NDA but both have announced support to Kovind.
In fact, both factions of AIADMK were present today. While leaders of O Panneerselvam faction came much before even the BJP CMs arrived, Palaniswami and party MPs from his faction arrived just minutes before nomination was filed. Biju Janata Dal, which will be BJP’s main rival when Odisha goes to the polls in 2019, and JD(U), which broke ranks with BJP in 2015, have also declared support for the NDA candidate.
But ally Shiv Sena, which has announced support to Kovind, was not represented on the occasion. While Sena leaders said they were not invited, BJP leaders maintained that there was a confusion. “Sena leader Anandrao Adsul met (Union minister) Ananth Kumar to sign the nomination papers. There was some confusion…it was certainly not intentional,” said a senior BJP leader who did not want to be named.
Kovind filed three sets of nominations on Friday. Another set will be filed on the last day of filing nomination — June 28. Each set of nomination papers has been signed by 60 leaders as proposers and 60 as seconders, making it 480 MPs/MLAs signing the papers for him.
In the first set, Prime Minister Modi was the proposer, Advani was the second signatory and Home Minister Rajnath Singh was the first seconder. The second was prepared in Hindi, as suggested by Amit Shah, and he himself signed it along with M M Joshi, Yogi Adityanath and Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The third was signed by Sushma Swaraj, Parkash Singh Badal and Chandrababu Naidu.