NDA PRESIDENTIAL candidate Ram Nath Kovind wound up his campaign with a three-state tour, meeting NDA Parliamentarians and MLAs from Maharashtra in Mumbai, followed by a similar exercise in Goa and Gujarat. Although Kovind did not visit Matoshree, the residence of the Thackerays, he is reported to have called up Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray to thank him for Sena’s support to his candidature.
In Goa, where Kovind met NDA legislators from the state at a resort in Vasco, near Panaji, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar pointed out that this was the first time that a Presidential candidate had visited the state to canvass support, which “signifies that Goa holds an important position” in NDA. In Mumbai, CM Devendra Fadnavis, Union ministers Nitin Gadkari and Anant Geete (Shiv Sena), senior BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya and Maharashtra minister Mahadev Jankar (RSP) were among those present at the meeting held at Garware Club in south Mumbai.
About Kovind skipping a visit to ‘Matoshree’, Maharashtra minister and Sena leader Eknath Shinde was quoted by PTI saying, “Kovind thanked Uddhav Thackeray…. As he has to visit a couple of more states, we did not insist him on visiting ‘Matoshree’.” As UPA Presidential candidates, Pranab Mukherjee and Pratibha Patil had visited then Sena supremo Bal Thackeray at ‘Matoshree’ after the party broke ranks with the NDA in the past two elections for the highest constitutional office.
In Ahmedabad, where Kovind was felicitated by Koli leaders – he belongs to the Scheduled Caste community – the former Bihar Governor said Gujarat is like a “second home” to him. Recalling his “30 to 35-year” association with the state, Kovind said, “In our life we have two homes: our birthplace and our workplace. While Uttar Pradesh is my birthplace, where I went first after being nominated to seek blessings from motherland; Gujarat is 25th state that I have visited.”
He recalled his frequent visits to Surat and Navsari districts for social service engagements, and his tenure as private secretary to late Prime Minister Morarji Desai in 1977. “Gujarat is the state that has given two Prime Ministers, Morarji Desai and Narendra Modi,” he said, adding that he has worked with both.