In a surprise move, Kovind called up Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray who expressed full support to his candidature
NDA’s candidate Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday met legislators and parliamentarians from Maharashtra here seeking their support for Monday’s presidential election.
Flanked by leaders of various National Democratic Alliance (NDA) constituents, Kovind addressed a meeting of legislators and parliamentarians at the Garware Club and later interacted with them. Present at the meeting were Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Union Ministers Nitin Gadkari, Piyush Goyal, Ramdas Athawale, besides state Ministers, leader of different NDA constituents in the state, all MPs and MLAs.
Senior legislator Ravi Rana, on behalf of all the nine independent legislators in the state, welcomed Kovind and expressed their full support to his candidature. Contrary to widespread speculation, Kovind is not scheduled to meet the key NDA ally, Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray. However, in a surprise move, Kovind called up Thackeray and expressed his gratitude to him for the Shiv Sena support in the presidential poll. “We welcome Kovindji in Mumbai. To visit ‘Matoshri’ (the Thackeray residence) or not will be his call. But we are firm on seeing him in Rashtrapati Bhavan,” said Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut in a tweet.
Earlier on Saturday, Kovind was accorded a warm welcome at Mumbai Airport by Fadnavis, Gadkari, Athawale, state Bharatiya Janata Party President Raosaheb Patil-Danve and other senior party functionaries and officials. Shortly thereafter, he drove down to the Garware Club in south Mumbai and addressed the meeting. Thackeray’s party will vote with NDA first time in 10 years. It maybe recalled that in 2012, UPA’s presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee had personally met the Shiv Sena founder-supremo, Bal Thackeray, at his Bandra residence ‘Matoshri’ after which the party extended its support to him, diverting from the NDA ranks.
Previously in 2008, Thackeray failed to toe the NDA line and unilaterally announced support to UPA candidate Pratibha Patil on grounds that she was the first Maharashtrian and a woman to be elected to the country’s top Constitutional post. This time, after initial hiccups and keeping the NDA on tenterhooks for several days, Shiv Sena finally declared support to Kovind.
However, long before the BJP had announced Kovind’s candidacy, the party had drummed up support for RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, who declined to contest, and renowned agro-scientist M.S. Swaminathan, who was not considered by the NDA. In a bid to mollify the ally, BJP President Amit Shah held a long meeting with Thackeray on these and other issues and finally the Sena acquiesced, much to the relief of the NDA.