The National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) Presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind on Friday filed his nomination papers in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, top BJP leaders LK Advani and Amit Shah. As a show of strength, chief ministers of BJP-ruled states and its allies – Parkash Singh Badal, Chandrababu Naidu, K Chandrashekhar Rao – were also present on the occasion.
After submitting the nomination papers, Kovind said, “I will do my best to maintain the dignity of the office of President of India, a post on which several distinguished people have served. I am thankful to all those who have supported me.”
He further said, “Rashtrapati ka padd dalgat rajneeti se upar hona chahiye (The post of the President should be above party politics). Ever since I became governor, I don’t belong to any political party.” Speaking about national security, the 72-year-old leader said, “The president is also the supreme commander of all three forces. It is our responsibility to keep our border secure.”
After days of speculation, the NDA had chosen the Bihar Governor, Kovind, as its presidential candidate. Kovind is a Dalit leader from Uttar Pradesh and had been a member of the Rajya Sabha.
Soon after his filing of nomination papers, Naidu said, “Ram Nath Kovind is the best candidate for President post. It would be better to have the best for the nation.”
Besides the NDA’s constituents, which comprise over 48.6 per cent of votes in the electoral college, the Dalit leader has also gained the support of non-NDA constituents such as the AIADMK-both Sasikala and Pannerselvam faction, TRS, BJD and JD(U). With all these supports, Kovind is now estimated to get 62 per cent of the votes in the Electoral College.
Earlier on Thursday, seventeen Opposition parties announced former Lok Sabha Speaker and Congress veteran Meira Kumar, also a Dalit, as their joint candidate against Kovind.
The presidential election will be held on July 17 and the votes will be counted on July 20. President Pranab Mukherjee’s term ends on July 24.
If elected, Kovind, 71, will be the second Dalit to hold the post of the President after K R Narayanan, who was served as the President of India from 1997-2002.