Ram Nath Kovind to kick-off nation-wide tour from June 25
NDA presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind will embark on a nation-wide tour on June 25, stopping first in Uttar Pradesh, where he will talk to members of the electoral college that vote for the new president.
However, BJP political observers ruled out the possibility of his meeting with other opposition leaders there.
The former Bihar governor will be accompanied by senior BJP leader and Union minister Nitin Gadkari in the UP leg of the tour.
BJP sources said Kovind, 71, would travel to the bigger states and at some places interact with electoral college members from more than one state.
While talking to newsmen here, BJP national general secretary and Rajya Sabha MP Bhupendra Singh Yadav said that "We have around 65 per cent vote share in the Electoral College already. It may also go up."
Yadav asserted that the incumbent government would also sound out non-NDA parties. "Already 20 Chief Ministers and 28 political parties across the nation have extended their support to us. We will also talk to other non-NDA parties and would seek their support," the senior BJP leader asserted.
As there is no provision of party whips in presidential elections, the BJP hopes that it may get the support of people who would like to vote for Kovind, irrespective of their party position.
The complete itinerary of Kovind's travel is still being finalised as it will also depend on the availability of state leaders, including NDA chief ministers and others supporting him, the sources said.
After filing his nomination Kovind reached out to the opposition by asserting that the president's office was above party politics and that he did not belong to a party.
"Since I became the governor I do not belong to any political party," the former head of the BJP's Dalit Morcha — who is almost certain to be the next president — said.
Earlier on Friday filed his nomination papers, surrounded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, 15 chief ministers and many union ministers, as the BJP put up a formidable show of strength to mark the occasion.
Representatives of 28 parties were there, too, BJP sources said, but its ally Shiv Sena was absent.
Sena leaders are among the proposers of Kovind's nomination.
BJP veterans L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, both of whom were seen as probable candidates for the high-profile post, were also present.
Among the non-NDA chief ministers who have announced their party's support to the Dalit leader from Uttar Pradesh — K Chandrashekar Rao (TRS) of Telangana and Edappadi K Palaniswami (AIADMK) of Tamil Nadu — were also there.
BJD chief and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had sent a minister while nobody from the JD(U) and YSRCP, two parties supporting Kovind, was present.
Three sets of nominations were filed in Kovind's support with Modi and Advani being among the 50 proposers in one.
One set in which Shah was among the proposers was in Hindi, which some BJP leaders said was a rare practice.
Top BJP allies Parkash Singh Badal of SAD and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu were among the proposers in the third set.
A fourth set will be filed on June 28, the last date of filing of nominations.