NDA’s Presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday began his poll campaign from his home state, where he expressed confidence that NDA constituents would support him. According to sources, he also sought the support of “others”, and asked NDA MPs and MLAs to make efforts in that direction. Kovind reached Lucknow with Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and BJP national general secretary Bhupender Yadav. They were welcomed by Adityanath and members of his Cabinet at the airport, from where they moved to the CM’s residence where MLAs and MPs of BJP, Apna Dal (Soneylal) and Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) were invited.
“Kovindji said he had come to UP because blessings should be taken first in the home,” a BJP MP told The Indian Express.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said that as Kovind belongs to UP, all voters from UP must support him. The state has the maximum number of voters for the Presidential election. There are 312 MLAs of BJP, nine of Apna Dal and four of SBSP in the UP Assembly. The BJP has 71 Lok Sabha members, while Apna Dal has two from UP. BJP has three Rajya Sabha members from UP.
SP and BSP are unlikely to support to Kovind, but the BJP is hopeful of support from SP patron Mulayam Singh Yadav, who is a Lok Sabha member. Mulayam’s brother Shivpal Yadav is an MLA.
After the meeting, a BJP MP said, “We understand Kovindji’s indication. I will contact other parties. In a healthy democracy, we have the right to seek support of all the voters.”
The SP has 47 MLAs, five Lok Sabha members and 18 Rajya Sabha members from UP. BSP has 19 MLAs and six Rajya Sabha members. The Congress has seven MLAs, two Lok Sabha members and three Rajya Sabha members from the state.
Gadkari said the BJP met all opposition parties for a consensus on Kovind’s candidature, but they did not agree for political reasons. He added that some non-NDA parties were supporting Kovind.
Sources said the meeting was one-sided, with no MP or MLA from the state speaking at the event. After the meeting, Kovind met all the MPs and MLAs individually.
Earlier, Cabinet minister Suresh Khanna introduced Kovind, highlighting the fact that he hails from a poor Dalit family from Kanpur Dehat district, sources said. He also spoke about Kovind’s education and career as a lawyer and politician.
Bhupender Yadav briefed legislators about the election exercise and asked them not to make any mistake in voting.
According to sources, Adityanath said that 100 per cent votes from UP should be cast in Kovind’s favour. He added that Kovind’s candidature was a message of social equality.