Pro-Kovind wave likely in northeast

Ram Nath Kovind  

The NDA’s presidential candidate, Ram Nath Kovind, is not only getting additional votes from six Trinamool Congress MLAs in Tripura but, as the BJP expects, also those of two of the three Congress MLAs in the State.

Mr. Kovind will visit the northeastern States on July 6 and 7, and party leaders say that his support base will show a substantial increase over and above the strength of the NDA in these States.

Hectic schedule

According to senior BJP leaders involved with Mr. Kovind’s campaign, he will land in Guwahati on Thursday morning and directly fly to Arunachal Pradesh where he will meet members of the BJP legislature group. “He will return to Guwahati for an overnight stay; in the evening, MLAs supporting his candidature from Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and Mizoram will meet him,” the office-bearer said.

“We are expecting support from six Trinamool Congress MLAs in Tripura, two Congress MLAs from the State and substantial support from 15 Independent MLAs in Meghalaya apart from the National People’s Party of Conrad Sangma,” the source added.

The next day, Mr. Kovind will meet MLAs from Nagaland and Manipur. He will be accompanied by Union Minister for Rural Development Narendra Singh Tomar, the BJP general secretary in charge of northeastern States, Ram Madhav, the BJP’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha, Rakesh Singh, and Ram Vichar Netam, MP.

Maximising support

“Our effort is to ensure that we maximise the support for our candidate from the northeast, to push the overall percentage of votes in his favour over 65% of the electoral college,” the party official said. The Trinamool Congress on Monday said it was “distancing” itself from party MLAs who had declared support for Mr. Kovind.

The task of drumming up support for Mr. Kovind had fallen on Assam Finance Minister and convener of the northeast chapter of the NDA, the North East Democratic Alliance, Himanta Biswa Sarma.

While not confirming the news about the crossing over of Congress MLAs, Mr. Sarma said he “welcomed the support from Trinamool MLAs and hopes that more support for Mr. Kovind will be forthcoming from the northeast”.

Six Independent Rajya Sabha members have also pledged support to Mr. Kovind. They are Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Amar Singh, Parimal Nathwani, Sadananda Kakde, Subhash Chandra and A.V. Swamy.