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Shiv Sena to back NDA candidate, Ram Nath Kovind, for president

Mumbai city news: Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said Kovind is a good candidate, a straightforward person from a simple family and has the potential to work for the country’s benefit

mumbai Updated: Jun 21, 2017 00:41 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Shiv Sena,BJP,NDA
Thackeray had earlier said his party will have no interest in supporting Kovind’s candidature if the NDA has picked a Dalit simply with an eye on the that vote bank.(HT file photo)

After breaking ranks with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) for the past two presidential elections, the Shiv Sena has this time declared its support for Bihar governor Ram Nath Kovind, the NDA’s candidate for next month’s presidential poll.

Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray announced his party’s support for Kovind after an internal meeting of the party’s leaders at his residence, Matoshree, Bandra. Thackeray said Kovind is a good candidate, a straightforward person from a simple family and has the potential to work for the country’s benefit. The Sena’s support to the NDA comes amid increasingly strained relations between the Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) within the Maharashtra government.

“If we look at the overall condition right now, there is an NDA government and we are its constituent. So the Sena will back the NDA candidate. Now that we have extended support, I don’t think there should be any obstacle,” Thackeray said, adding he cannot endlessly wait for the opposition parties to finalise their candidate for the post.

The Shiv Sena’s relations with the BJP have been particularly choppy of late. The Sena not only backed the recent farmers’ agitation against the state government, in which it is a junior partner, but also demonstrated against the government on the streets and joined the Opposition in bitterly criticising the BJP. Speaking at the party’s 51st foundation day on Monday evening, Thackeray also challenged the BJP to call a mid-term election and warned its warring ally to not test its strength.

Announcing his party’s support to Kovind’s candidature, Thackeray on Tuesday said, “The Sena does not want to oppose just for the sake of opposition. Where we agree with them, we say we agree. Where we don’t see eye-to-eye, we specifically say so.”

Thackeray had earlier said his party will have no interest in supporting Kovind’s candidature if the NDA has picked a Dalit simply with an eye on the that vote bank. He said he will back the NDA candidate only if he is going to work in the benefit of the entire country.

Attempting to put the BJP in a spot, the Sena was originally insisting on two different names. The party first pitched Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat as its first preference, saying only a person like him can guide the country in the direction of being a Hindu nation, resolve the Ram Temple issue in Ayodhya and help enforce a uniform civil code — all core promises of the BJP. After Bhagwat ruled himself out for the position, the Sena suggested agricultural scientist 91-year-old MS Swaminathan’s name for the post, saying he will be able to provide solutions to the deepening agrarian crisis in several parts of the country.

BJP president Amit Shah met Thackeray on Sunday, the last day of the former’s visit to Mumbai, to enlist the party’s support for the NDA’s presidential candidate. On the Sena’s choices for the post, Shah informed Thackeray that while Bhagwat was not vying for the position, Swaminathan has not been in good health.

Shah, however, did not disclose any potential names then, but called Thackeray on Monday soon after the BJP parliamentary board’s meeting to convey the party’s pick – Kovind.

Voting for the presidential election is scheduled on July 17, while the counting will take place on July 20, four days before President Pranab Mukherjee’s term ends.

With 18 MPs and 63 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs), the Sena has 25,893 votes for the election, as the electoral college for the presidential poll includes 708 points for every MP and 175 for every legislator in Maharashtra.

For the past two presidential elections, the Sena has broken ranks with the NDA and backed Congress nominees Pranab Mukherjee and Pratibha Patil.

Read more:

Presidential polls: Uddhav keeps BJP guessing, to hold meeting with Sena leaders today

Oppn to meet on June 22 as BJP picks Ram Nath Kovind as presidential candidate

First Published: Jun 21, 2017 00:38 IST