"This election will witness the conscience of the nation," Opposition-backed Presidential candidate P A Sangma on Friday said, contending that the contest has turned "very very serious" and was not just symbolic.
Sangma, the former NCP leader whose name was first propped up by chief ministers J Jayalalithaa and Naveen Patnaik, harped on to his favourite line of "conscience vote" and asked common man to "influence" their MLAs and MPs to vote for him.
Referring to a media report which reportedly said Pranab Mukherjee was campaigning while Sangma was "begging for votes", the former Lok Sabha Speaker said: "What a difference. I don't want to be subjected to dustbins. I am not begging for votes. I have full faith in the electoral college."
65-year-old Sangma was speaking to media at the Delhi BJP headquarters where he had come to seek the support of the party MLAs in the Presidential elections.
Congress took the 2012 Presidential elections very easily and even termed the contest as just "token and symbolic."
"But now, after I entered, it is becoming a very very serious election. This election will witness the conscience of the nation. India has a conscience and that has to be proved once again on July 19," he said.
He also referred to former President A P J Abdul Kalam's statement that his conscience was not letting him to contest the Presidential poll. "BJP wanted him to be the people's candidate, but he refused. The country has a conscience."
Sangma also appealed to the common man to "influence" their MLAs and MPs and ask them to vote for him. "People have the power to influence their votes. Now, Presidential election has become a public issue. People are emotionally involved and we are heading for a change that will be for good," he said. Claiming that the country was in "shambles" and had never confronted so may challenges like price rise, corruption and decrease in rupee value at the same time, he said the "Congress Prime Minister and Congress Finance Minister" are responsible.
"People are very angry with the government and people tell me that they wish they had a vote," he said.
On law minister Salman Khurshid's reported statement that the Congress was "directionless", Sangma said he has "spoken the truth."
Welcoming him, BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu described Sangma as a "veteran Parliamentarian" and that he does not represent any political party.
"He will uphold the integrity of the institution and democracy. President has to safeguard democracy and we have seen earlier instances of Emergency being imposed and Article 356 being used. We need a person who can take balanced views on issues," he said.
He also alleged that the UPA Government has "totally failed" on all fronts. He also asked BJP MLAs to vote for Sangma.