New Delhi – NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind on Friday filed his nomination here for the July 17 Presidential election and pledged to uphold the dignity of the country’s top constitutional post.
Senior BJP functionaries said that with a large number of non-NDA parties supporting Kovind, they are confident of his winning with a huge margin.
Kovind, 71, filed the papers in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah and Chief Ministers of states ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies as well as parties backing him.
After filing the nomination, Kovind came out along with Modi, Shah, party stalwarts L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, with others following them.
Those present included Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and Shiromani Akali Dal leader Parkash Singh Badal.
The leaders waved towards the waiting mediapersons and briefly posed for pictures, holding each others’ hands in a show of unity and raised it in a victory sign. Amit Shah did not yield to mediapersons’ request for comments.
A former BJP MP, Kovind told the media after filing his nomination that he has had no party affiliation since he became the Bihar Governor after Modi took power in New Delhi in 2014.
“The President’s post carries a lot of dignity. My effort will be to keep the post above party politics. I promise I will try my best to uphold the dignity of this office. The Constitution is supreme and it is our duty to maintain its supremacy,” he added.
Kovind filed three set of nomination papers. BJP leaders said another set will be filed on June 28, the last date for filing nominations in the election which will see the former Bihar Governor take on opposition candidate and former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar.
Later, speaking to media, Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said that he could not understand why the Congress was opposing NDA Presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind.
“Kovind is a good candidate. He is non-controversial, educated and experienced and has been good as Bihar Governor. He has worked among the weaker sections and the downtrodden. I cannot understand why the Congress is opposing him,” he said.
“We have a comfortable majority. All major political parties are supporting Kovind. The Congress alone knows why it is contesting because they do not have numbers on their side. But anyway it is their democratic right to contest,” he said.
The NDA, including the Shiv Sena and the PDP of Jammu and Kashmir, commands the support of 48.93 per cent in the electoral college made up of MPs and MLAs.
With the backing of parties outside the alliance like TRS (2 per cent), AIADMK (5.39 per cent), YSR Congress (1.53 per cent) and BJD (2.99 per cent), the NDA’s support will cross the half way mark to reach nearly 63 per cent. The JD-U (1.91 per cent) is also backing him.
Former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, the opposition candidate, in a statement appealed to all members of the Electoral College to vote on the basis of “cherished principles of…inclusiveness, social justice and pluralism.”
“The post of the President carries the responsibility of safeguarding and defending our constitutional principles. The values I hold dear — of inclusiveness, social justice and pluralism — are the values the President must uphold. If these values are undermined so is our Constitution,” she said.
“I appeal to all the honourable members of the collegium to base their decision on these cherished principles and secure them for our future generations,” Meira Kumar said.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said the Congress was not sincere towards the Dalits or the Dalit cause.
“Had it been so, they would have fielded Meira Kumar in the last election itself. Now, after the NDA nominated a Dalit, they have brought in Meira Kumar to pit a Dalit against a Dalit to insult the Dalits.”
Former Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar Sushil Kumar Modi said the Congress was insulting “Bihar ki beti” (Bihar’s daughter) by forcing her to take on another Dalit candidate.
“Now that the BJP has named a Dalit candidate, they started seeing all the virtues in Meira Kumar. This is an insult to ‘Bihar’s daughter’,” Sushil Modi said.
Meanwhile, Kovind’s candidature got more backing with Bihar Chief Minister and JD-U president Nitish Kumar categorically rejecting the appeal of RJD chief Lalu Prasad not to make a ‘historic blunder’ by extending support to the NDA nominee.
“There is no question of my changing my decision,” he told the media in Patna.