New Delhi: UPA's Presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday filed his nomination papers for the July 19 election in the presence Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
In sign of the changing times, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Ram Gopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party were also present for the event.
Soon after completing the process, Pranab thanked the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Janata Dal (United), the CPI-M and the Shiv Sena for reposing faith in him. "I am grateful to them as they have reposed faith in me to occupy the office which was occupied in the past by great stalwarts of this country.
"I only wish at this time that let me have the blessings of God and cooperation of all at this juncture," he told reporters at the Parliament House.
Four sets of nomination papers, signed by as many as 480 MPs and MLAs, including Union Ministers, Chief Ministers, Congress Legislature Party leaders and PCC chiefs were submitted by Mukherjee.
Convenor of the opposition NDA and JD(U) President Sharad Yadav was the first signatory on one set of nomination papers followed by Defence Minister AK Antony. BSP supremo Mayawati also signed the nomination papers.
The Trinamool Congress, however, was conspicuous by its absence. Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee's reservations about Pranab Mukherjee are well-known. The West Bengal Chief Minister had proposed the name of former president and scientist APJ Abdul Kalam. However, ignoring her demands, the UPA went ahead and nominated Pranab as its candidate.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad, RLD chief Ram Vilas Paswan, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi and union ministers such as P Chidambaram, Farooq Abdullah, Ajit Singh, E Ahamed, AK Antony, Pawan Kumar Bansal, Ashwini Kumar were present at the time of Pranab filing his nomination papers.
SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav, BSP leader Satish Chandra Mishra, NCP leader DP Tripathi were among others who witnessed the filing of nomination papers.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal has been appointed as Pranab's authorised representative.
The other Presidential candidate PA Sangma, backed by the main Opposition BJP is expected to file his nomination by 2 pm on Thursday. While key NDA allies, the Shiv Sena and the Janata Dal (United) have refused to back him, saying their support lies with Pranab, others like the Biju Janata Dal and the AIADMK are firm in their support for the former Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader.
The race for Rashtrapati: The numbers
Support for Pranab
UPA (-TMC) + RJD + SP + BSP + JDS + CPM + FB + NDA ALLIES (SS + JDU) = 62.3 per cent.
Support for Sangma
BJP + SAD + JMM + BJD + AIADMK = 30.3 per cent
TMC + TDP + Others = 7.4 per cent
The big questions
Has the Presidential battle split the NDA?
Is Pranab Mukherjee's move to Rashtrapati Bhawan going to make things difficult for the UPA?
Should the Congress President not have suggested only Pranab's name for President's post in the beginning itself?
Should Mamata Banerjee reconsider her opposition to Pranab?
(With additional information from PTI)