NDA presidential nominee Ram Nath Kovind reached Chandigarh on Thursday to meet MLAs and MPs of Haryana and Punjab BJP and those of its ally SAD as part of his campaign for the July 17 election. Kovind, who was accompanied by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and senior BJP leader Anil Jain, was given a rousing welcome at the airport in Chandigarh by NDA leaders from the twin states. 71-year-old Kovind will hold separate meetings with Punjab SAD-BJP MLAs and MPs and later with the BJP parliamentarians of Haryana at Panchkula, Haryana, said Kamal Sharma- former Punjab BJP president.
Former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal and other senior leaders of the Akali Dal would also be present at the meeting along with BJP legislators and parliamentarians from the state. “Kovind ji’s arrival got slightly delayed due to bad weather conditions as the aircraft could not take off well in time from Delhi,” Kamal Sharma, who was among those present at the airport to welcome Kovind, said.
The SAD-BJP coalition has 18 MLAs (15 SAD, 3 BJP) in the 117 member Punjab Assembly while the ruling Congress has 77. The AAP has 20 legislators and its ally Lok Insaaf Party has two. Among the Lok Sabha members in Punjab, the ruling Congress has four, the SAD has three, the BJP had 2 MPs but recently Gurdaspur MP Vinod Khanna passed away. The AAP has four, out of which two have been suspended by the party.
In the Rajya Sabha, SAD has 3, BJP 1 and Congress has 3 members. In the 90-member Haryana Assembly, the ruling BJP enjoys a majority with 47 MLAs and the support of five Independents. The Congress has 17 MLAs. The SAD has a lone legislator in Haryana Assembly while the INLD (The Indian National Lok Dal), which is the principal opposition party, has 19.
INLD senior leader Abhay Chautala said the party will take a decision later in the day on whom to extend the support to, in the presidential election. “We will announce our decision later in the day,” Chautala said.
The party, at a meeting held recently, had left it to party president and former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala on whether to extend support to Kovind or opposition candidate Meira Kumar. Among the Lok Sabha MPs in Haryana, the ruling BJP has seven members, INLD- two and Congress has one while the BJP has only one member among the five Rajya Sabha MPs. Media baron Subhash Chandra was last year elected with the BJP’s support. The Congress has two Rajya Sabha members and the INLD has one in Haryana.