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Ram Nath Kovind to file nomination Friday with PM Modi, NDA CMs in attendance

LiveMint logoLiveMint 22-06-2017 PTI

New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind will file his nomination papers on Friday in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and most 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% of votes in the electoral college that will elect the next president, regional parties such as the AIADMK, BJD, TRS and JD(U) have announced their support to the Dalit leader, making his win an almost foregone conclusion.

BJP President Amit Shah will also be present when Kovind files his papers, as will the Telangana and Tamil Nadu chief ministers, two leaders from non-NDA parties supporting Kovind, people familiar with the development in the southern parties said.

Kovind is guaranteed to get more than 61% of the vote, and the finally tally may increase depending on how some still-undecided regional parties vote, a person familiar with the matter in the BJP said.

A group of opposition parties on Thursday announced that former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, also a Dalit leader, would be their joint candidate against Kovind.

The election is scheduled for 17 July and the counting of votes will take place on 20 July. The term of President Pranab Mukherjee ends on 24 July. 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 activist 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.

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