Ending suspense over support to NDA’s presidential nominee Ram Nath Kovind, Shiv Sena, BJP’s key ruling ally, said on Tuesday that it will back him. The development comes a day after the party had said it was not interested in backing Kovind if his candidature is aimed at garnering Dalit votes. In a statement to the media at this residence ‘Matoshree’ in Bandra this evening, party chief Uddhav Thackeray was quoted by news agency PTI as saying: “After holding discussions with our party leaders, we have decided to back the NDA presidential candidate Ram Nath
Kovind. After our support, I do not think it will be difficult for the BJP to get him elected.”
Kovind was named NDA’s presidential nominee on Monday by BJP president Amit Shah even as he said there was a ‘by-and-large’ consensus within the coalition on the choice. In order to shore up support for Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also reached out to several chief ministers and leaders of regional parties. The Prime Minister even spoke to former prime minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi regarding the same. Also Read: Ram Nath Kovind for President: Which parties support his candidature and how the scales weigh
After his nomination, Kovind, who was the Bihar Governor, stepped down from his gubernatorial post. A communique issued by the Rashtrapati Bhavan stated President Pranab Mukherjee accepted his resignation. West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi would assume the additional role of the Governor of Bihar.
Meanwhile, the numbers game seems to be in favour of Kovind, with a faction of the AIADMK, the BJD, the YSR Congress, the TRS and now the Shiv Sena extending support. The total strength of the electoral college which votes to elect the President comprises all elected MPs and members of legislative assemblies of all states and UTs of Delhi and Puducherry. Also Read: Shiv Sena throws in support for NDA nominee Ram Nath Kovind
The total comes to 10,98,903 votes with each MP carrying a vote value of 708. The vote weight of an MLA depends on the population of the state he or she represents. A candidate needs 50 per cent plus votes to win the poll. Halfway mark comes at 5,49,452. The NDA, led by the BJP, has 5,37,683 votes and this is including the Shiv Sena.
The voting for the president’s position is through a secret ballot, and party whip does not apply. In the last elections, present incumbent Pranab Mukherjee had won by a margin of 397776 votes defeating P A Sangma. He garnered 713763 votes against 315987 of Sangma, whose passed away last year.
Meanwhile, Opposition parties will possibly be fielding their own consensus candidate, PTI quoted sources in the Left parties as saying on Tuesday. It further added that other non-NDA party leaders, including NCP president Sharad Pawar, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, will likely meet on June 22 to discuss the issue.
Some probable contenders likely being considered by the Opposition parties, include former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, ex-Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, CPI national secretary D Raja, Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh leader and grandson of Dr BR Ambedkar, Prakash, and retired diplomat Gopal Krishna Gandhi. The Left parties, as per sources quoted by PTI, claimed that the BJP fielding Kovind has “not hurt” the unity among the 17 opposition parties, adding that since the BJP has named Kovind, a Dalit leader, the Opposition could also likely zero in on a candidate from the same community.
For Kovind’s nomination filing on June 23, chief ministers of BJP-ruled states along with its allies are likely to be present. Kovind, a Dalit leader and two-time Rajya Sabha member, was picked as the ruling NDA’s presidential nominee on Monday.
In the meantime, Ram Nath Kovind has been provided a ‘Z+’ cover of NSG commandos by the Union government on Tuesday. Officials told PTI that the ‘black cat’ commandos force will secure Kovind after a threat analysis was conducted by central security agencies.
Officials said that a squad of 10-12 armed National Security Guard NSG commandos will be with Kovind, along with pilot vehicles and escort. The NSG gives security cover to high-profile politicians such as senior BJP leader LK Advani, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal, among many others. The presidential election is scheduled for July 17. Mukherjee completes his five-year term on July 24.