A day after inviting rival Pranab Mukherjee for a debate, BJP-backed Presidential candidate PA Sangma took him on directly, blaming him for the slowdown of the economy.
Formally beginning his campaign from Amritsar on Sunday, Sangma spoke to Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and paid obeisance at the Golden Temple.
"The country today faces devaluation of money, price rise and issues like corruption, and the finance minister is individually responsible for this," Sangma told reporters after the visit to the Golden Temple.
All this will definitely have an impact during the Presidential elections, where members of the electoral college cast a conscience vote and there is no whip, the former NCP leader added.
In the face of solid support for Congress candidate Mukherjee even from NDA allies like Shiv Sena and the JD(U), Sangma is banking on the conscience vote and a "miracle".
Though BJP ally and the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Punjab has offered him support, Sena leader Sanjay Raut said on Sunday party chief Bal Thackeray would not meet Sangma.
Sangma thanked the Bharatiya Janata Party for supporting him.
In an interview with journalist Karan Thapar for CNN-IBN, he said his candidature would do good to secularism in India. Reminded that the Sangh Parivar was accused of complicity in the Kandhamal riots of Orissa and the murder of Christian missionary Graham Staines, Sangma said, "Where is the proof that BJP has done it?"
"Forgiveness is the essence of Christianity," he added.
Meanwhile, Mizo National Front chief Zoramthanga said his party was likely to back Sangma, as no tribal Christian had occupied the country’s top post before.
(With agency inputs)