New Delhi: The race to elect India’s 13th President formally began Thursday with both UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee and his rival Purno Sangma filing their nominations for the July 19 contest.
The result will be out July 22.
While Mukherjee sought the “blessing of God and cooperation of all” to get elected, Sangma termed his candidature “a victory of tribal unity.”
Both Mukherjee and Sangma said they will start their campaign Saturday, and expressed the hope that the mercurial Mamata Banerjee would rally on their side.
While opposed to Mukherjee, Banerjee has still not supported Sangma.
“I only wish at this time that we have the blessing of God and cooperation of all at this juncture,” Mukherjee told reporters.
He thanked the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and the Shiv Sena for their support.
“I was fortunate, honoured and humbled to be nominated by UPA. The nomination was endorsed by a large number of political parties. I seek support of all those, including Trinamool, who have not yet decided,” Mukherjee said.
He clarified that it was the 14th presidential election to elect the 13th President of the country as the first President, Rajendra Prasad, was elected twice to the country’s highest office.
The nominations became an opportunity for the ruling United Progressive Alliance and the opposition to show their strength.
Mukherjee was accompanied by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, party general secretary Rahul Gandhi, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Lalu Prasad, Rashtriya Lok Dal’s Ajit Singh, Lok Janshakti Party’s Ram Vilas Paswan, National Conference’s Farooq Abdullah, Indian Union Muslim League’s E. Ahmed and senior DMK leaders.
Supporting Sangma, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, BJP president Nitin Gadkari and party leaders L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley were present during his nomination.
“Today is a victory of tribal unity, that a tribal is filing his nomination for the post of President,” Sangma said ahead of submitting his papers.
Sangma clarified he was a candidate sponsored by the Tribal Forum of India, nominated by the Chief Ministers of Odisha and Tamil Nadu and backed by BJP and other NDA allies.
“I am very happy to get the support of such political parties — from tribal to that of northeast. It is insignificant where I am coming from,” said Sangma after filing his nomination.
Sangma lamented that the Congress did not welcome the candidature of a tribal for the post of President despite the community having stood by the party.
“We wanted to express that tribals in India have all along stood by the Congress. We had expected Congress would welcome our request. However, the Congress did not come out in support of tribals,” he said.
“We sought an appointment to meet Congress president (Sonia Gandhi). We were asked to wait in the Central Hall (of parliament) consecutively for three days. But we could not get an appointment.”
Before filing his nomination, Sangma added a bit of colour to his campaign by joining a group of tribal dancers who performed at the Constitution Club and played the drums to express their happiness.
Rajya Sabha secretary general V.K. Agnihotri is the returning officer for the July 19 presidential poll, in which the UPA nominee appears to have an edge over Sangma.