New Delhi: National Democratic Alliance's (NDA) presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind filed his nomination papers on Friday in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and most Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA chief ministers, besides the heads of some other parties supporting his candidature.
Besides the NDA's constituents, which comprise over 48.6 per cent of votes in the electoral college that will elect the next president, regional parties such as the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (AIADMK), Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Telangana Rashtra Samithi and Janata Dal (United) have announced their support to the Dalit leader, making his win an almost foregone conclusion.
Senior BJP leaders including Amit Shah, LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj were also present when Kovind files his papers, along with Telangana and Tamil Nadu chief ministers, two leaders from non-NDA parties supporting Kovind.
Kovind is guaranteed to get more than 61 per cent of votes, and the final tally may increase depending on how some still-undecided regional parties vote, BJP source said.
A group of opposition parties had on Thursday announced that former Speaker Meira Kumar, also a Dalit leader, would be their joint candidate against Kovind. The election is scheduled for July 17 and the counting of votes will take place on July 20.
The term of President Pranab Mukherjee ends on July 24. Once elected, Kovind will be the second Dalit to occupy the highest constitutional office.
The first was K R Narayanan, who was in the Rashtrapati Bhavan in 1997-2002. A low profile Dalit leader who held various organisational positions in the BJP, Kovind, 71, was made the Bihar Governor in 2015 after the NDA came to power in May 2014.
The name of the two-term Rajya Sabha member did not figure among the probables but his nomination by the BJP is now being seen as a ‘political masterstroke’.
He enjoys a clean reputation and has steered clear of any controversy in his over 26-year-old political career. His Dalit background makes him a sound political choice for the saffron party working overtime to woo Dalits. If elected he will be the 15th President of India.