New Delhi: NDA presidential nominee Ram Nath Kovind will on Friday file the nomination papers for the upcoming election, a day after the former Bihar governor was given 'Z+' and NSG security cover by the Centre.
Kovind will be going up against Congress nominee Meira Kumar, making the July 17 vote a Dalit vs Dalit battle. Kumar, former Lok Sabha speaker, is likely to file her nomination papers on July 28, the last date.
Kovind, will file the nomination papers in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and most BJP-led NDA Chief Ministers, besides the heads of some other parties supporting his candidature, PTI reported.
Besides the NDA's constituents, which comprise over 48.6 per cent of votes in the electoral college that will elect the next president, regional parties such as the the AIADMK, BJD, TRS and JD(U) have announced their support to the Dalit leader, making his win an almost foregone conclusion.
BJP chief Amit Shah will also be present when Kovind files his papers, as will the Telangana and Tamil Nadu Chief Ministers, two leaders from non-NDA parties supporting Kovind, sources in the southern parties told PTI.
Kovind is guaranteed to get more than 61 per cent of the vote, and the finally tally may increase depending on how some still-undecided regional parties vote, PTI quoted a BJP source as saying.
The election is scheduled for July 17 and the counting of votes will take place on July 20.
The term of President Pranab Mukherjee ends on July 24. Once elected, Kovind will be the second Dalit to occupy the highest constitutional office. The first was KR Narayanan, who was in the Rashtrapati Bhavan in 1997-2002.
A low profile Dalit leader who held various organisational positions in the BJP, Kovind, 71, was made the Bihar Governor in 2015 after the NDA came to power in May 2014.
The name of the two-term Rajya Sabha member did not figure among the probables but his nomination by the BJP is now being seen as a "political masterstroke".
He enjoys a clean reputation and has steered clear of any controversy in his over 26-year-old political career. His Dalit background makes him a sound political choice for the saffron party working overtime to woo Dalits.
On Thursday, Kovind was given Z+ security cover. The commandos of the National Security Guard (NSG) and security agencies have also done security audit of Kovind's temporary residence — 10, Akbar Road, which is allocated to Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma.
"A Z+ and NSG security cover has been given to Ram Nath Kovind," a home ministry spokesperson said. A security and threat analysis carried out by central security agencies favoured the armed security cover for the presidential candidate.
A squad of 10-12 armed NSG commandos will be with Kovind, along with escort and pilot vehicles.
It is expected that the elite force will guard him till he takes over the office of the first citizen of India, who is also the supreme commander of the armed forces.
The NSG commandos will move around with Kovind who is expected to travel across the country extensively to meet legislators and leaders of political parties to seek support for his candidature.
(With PTI inputs)