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INLD extends support to presidential candidate Ramnath Kovind

71-year old Kovind, who visited Chandigarh and Panchkula to seek support of MLAs and MPs of the BJP in Haryana and Punjab and also of its ally Shiromani Akali Dal, managed to secure the backing of even the principal opposition party in Haryana

punjab Updated: Jun 29, 2017 20:34 IST
Rajesh Moudgil
Rajesh Moudgil
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Presidential candidate Ramnath Kovind,Ramnath Kovind in Chandigarh,Presidential elections
Presidential candidate Ramnath Kovind along with Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar and Indian National Lok Dal leader Abhay Chautala at a hotel in Panchkula.(Karun Sharma/HT)

National Democratic Alliance (NDA) presidential nominee Ramnath Kovind, who visited Chandigarh and Panchkula on Thursday to seek support of MLAs and MPs of the BJP in Haryana and Punjab and also of its ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), managed to secure the backing of even the principal opposition party in Haryana, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD).

The INLD support came after a meeting of Kovind, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar and state party president Subhash Barala with INLD leader Abhay Chautala.

Earlier, 71-year old Kovind, who arrived along with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, senior BJP leader Anil Jain and Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, was given a rousing welcome at Panchkula by party MLAs and MPs from Punjab and Haryana.

But INLD MPs and MLAs did not show up at the venue of the meeting despite an invite. They instead stayed put at a nearby private hotel.

However, after about four-hour closed-door deliberations with MLAs and MPs of the BJP and SAD at a Haryana tourism department hotel, Kovind, Khattar and Barala called on Abhay Chautala. After their meeting, Abhay declared his party’s support to Kovind. He said the INLD would support him as he had a clean image.

Abhay had recently said that the INLD had left the decision on the presidential polls to party president and former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, who along with his elder son Ajay Chautala, is currently serving a ten-year sentence in Tihar jail in JBT recruitment scam.

Kovind in his address said that he remembered INLD founder Devi Lal and his contribution to Haryana. “We used to call him ‘Tauji’ even in the Parliament and inherited good values from him, which I would continue to follow.”

Thanking the INLD for the support, Kovind said he had been above partisan politics since the past two years ever since he was made Bihar governor and would strive to maintain the dignity of the chair of President.

We have signed blank cheque, says Sukhbir

Speaking on the occasion, former Punjab chief minister and SAD patron Parkash Singh Badal said his party was happy to support Kovind. “Saada te BJP da janam janam da saath hai,” he said while speaking in Punjabi.

SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal also hailed Kovind’s candidature and said his party had announced its support on the day his name was announced. “Asi taan blank cheque te sign kar ditta si (We had signed on a blank cheque),” he quipped.

Earlier, Swaraj briefed the gathering about the background of Kovind whom she described as a time-tested leader of the BJP. She also talked about his stint as personal secretary of former prime minister late Morarji Desai, besides his two-year stint as Bihar governor.

Each vote matters

In the 90-member Haryana assembly, the ruling BJP has a majority with 47 MLAs and it enjoys support of five Independents. The INLD has 19 MLAs and the Congress17.

Among the 10 Lok Sabha MPs in Haryana, the ruling BJP has seven members, INLD two and Congress one. Among the five Rajya Sabha members in the state, the BJP has one — Birender Singh. Media baron Subhash Chandra is an independent MP supported by BJP. The Congress has two and the INLD has one.

In 117-member Punjab assembly, the SAD-BJP coalition has 18 MLAs (15 SAD, 3 BJP) while the ruling Congress has 77. The AAP has 20 legislators and its ally Lok Insaaf Party has two.

Among the Lok Sabha members in Punjab, the ruling Congress has four and the SAD has three. The BJP had 2 MPs, but recently Gurdaspur MP Vinod Khanna passed away. The AAP has four MPs from the state, out of which two have been suspended by the party. In the Rajya Sabha, the SAD has 3 members, Congress 3 and BJP 1.

First Published: Jun 29, 2017 20:32 IST