New Delhi, On the eve of elections to select the 14th president of the country, which NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind looks set to sweep, Congress president Sonia Gandhisought “a vote of conscience”, calling the contest “a clash of ideas and a conflict of disparate values”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was addressing an all-party meeting ahead of the Parliament session, said it would have been better if the President had been chosen by consensus. “However, it is a matter of satisfaction and pride that the election campaign has been a dignified one. All the political parties need to be congratulated. All parties must train their MPs and MLAs to cast their votes so that not a single vote is wasted,” he added.
A total of 95 candidates filed nominations for the top Constitutional post, of which 93 were rejected on various grounds, leaving only Kovind and Opposition candidate Meira Kumar in the fray. While Kumar has support of 17 opposition parties, Kovind is set to get nearly 70 per cent of the electoral college votes.
Sonia acknowledged this in her speech on Sunday, at a meeting of non-NDA parties with Meira Kumar and the Opposition’s vice-presidential candidate, Gopalkrishna Gandhi. The numbers may be against the Opposition, she said, but “the battle must be fought and fought hard”. “We cannot and must not let India be hostage to those who wish to impose upon it a narrow-minded, divisive and communal vision,” Sonia said.
The Opposition’s campaign had been dealt the most decisive blow by the JD(U), a Congress ally in Bihar, which decided to back Kovind after being the first to moot the idea of putting up a joint candidate against the NDA’s. Taking the JD(U)’s cue, other parties had later lined up behind Kovind.