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Ram Nath Kovind vs Meira Kumar: NDA takes on Opposition in presidential election today

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said NDA’s nominee Ram Nath Kovind has the support of 40 parties, expressing confidence about his victory.

india Updated: Jul 17, 2017 10:01 IST
HT Correspondents
NDA’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an NDA meeting in New Delhi on Sunday.
NDA’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an NDA meeting in New Delhi on Sunday. (PTI)

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and Opposition parties intensified their campaigns a day before the country’s 15th presidential election on Monday, with leaders from both camps holding strategy meetings and calling for support.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi led the Opposition’s charge at an inter-party meeting, where she asked members to cast “conscience votes” against a “narrow-minded, divisive and communal vision”. Gandhi told participants from non-NDA parties to “fight the battle and fight hard” despite the ruling dispensation seemingly having a numerical advantage. The event was attended by the Opposition’s presidential candidate, Meira Kumar, and vice-presidential nominee, Gopal Krishna Gandhi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi used the issue of corruption to attack political opponents hours before Sonia Gandhi held the Opposition’s strategy meet. “Over the last few decades, the image of India’s political leadership has been at a crossroads due to the deeds of some leaders among us. We need to convince the people that not every leader is tainted, and not every leader runs after money,” Modi said at an all-party meeting.

Later, Modi congratulated NDA nominee Ram Nath Kovind “in advance”.

Modi termed the “lack of bitterness” in the poll campaign as a sign of maturity in the Indian democracy.

Voting will begin at 10am in the Parliament building as well as state assemblies. The electoral college of the presidential election comprises 4,120 MLAs and 776 MPs with a total vote value of 10,98,903.

Sonia Gandhi termed the election a battle of ideologies.

“We cannot – and must not – let India be held hostage by those who wish to impose upon it a narrow-minded, divisive and communal vision. We must stand more aware than ever of who we are, what we fought for in our independence struggle, and what future we want for ourselves,” she said.

Gandhi said the presence of diverse parties such as the Left and the Trinamool Congress in the Opposition camp went to show that “the fight for an inclusive, tolerant and pluralistic India is truly being waged”.

According to sources, the Congress is looking at this election as a possible stepping stone for forming a united Opposition in time for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

However, parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar Kumar seemed undaunted. He said the road ahead for the BJP was “very clear” because 40 political parties, including non-NDA entities such as the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and Biju Janata Dal, had already committed to Kovind.

Opposition unity had suffered a jolt when JD-U chief Nitish Kumar switched sides and pledged his support to Kovind last month.

As things stood on Sunday, the NDA looked set to get over seven lakh votes while the Opposition seemed unable to cross four lakh.

Read| Ram Nath Kovind or Meira Kumar: Presidential election 2017 live updates