LUCKNOW: NDA's presidential nominee Ram Nath Kovind today sought the "blessings" of the lawmakers of the BJP and its allies in Uttar Pradesh as he embarked on a nationwide tour from his home state to garner the backing of various political parties.
"I have come here to seek your blessings," the former Bihar governor told a meeting of NDA MPs and MLAs from the state.
"According to traditions, we first go home to seek the blessings of the elders. Uttar Pradesh is my place of birth.
When we go home, we offer salutations to our mother. For me, Uttar Pradesh is my mother," he added.
The meeting was held at the official residence of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who earlier received Kovind (71) at the airport here.
Accompanied by Union minister Nitin Gadkari and BJP national general secretary Bhupender Yadav, Kovind was taken to the chief minister's official residence on Kalidas Marg straight from the airport.
There, he interacted with a host of senior BJP leaders, including Union ministers Uma Bharti and Gadkari, Deputy Chief Ministers Keshav Prasad Maurya and Dinesh Sharma. He also met with state Assembly Speaker Hriday Narayan Dixit.
In his brief speech, Kovind said he had come to seek their blessings for the July 17 presidential election.
Earlier, addressing the MPs and MLAs, Adityanath said, "This is the first time that we will have the honour of having a person from Uttar Pradesh as our president. This honour has been bestowed upon us by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah.
"It will be good if all the political parties rise above the narrow party lines and vote for him (Kovind). It will convey a good message."
He said Kovind, who led a simple life, had continuously been working for the uplift of the poor, Dalits and marginalised sections of the society.
Gadkari explained to the MPs and MLAs how to cast their ballots in the presidential poll.
Though Uttar Pradesh has given the country nine prime ministers, including incumbent Narendra Modi, who is a Lok Sabha member from Varanasi, it will be the first time that the politically crucial state will have the pride of sending someone to the Rashtrapati Bhavan if Kovind is elected.
The closest the state came to having its representative in the President's House was in 1969, when Mohammad Hidayatullah became the first acting president of the country and remained in that position from July 20 to August 24 of that year.
Sakshi Maharaj, the BJP MP from Unnao, adjoining Kovind's native place Kanpur, was also present at the meeting.
Describing Kovind as a "diamond", Union minister Anupriya Patel of the Apna Dal (S) said, "I was very happy the moment the name of Ram Nath Kovind was announced as he hails from Kanpur, which is also my birth place."
She said her party would extend full support to him.
"Kovindji knew my family and my father (late Sonelal Patel). He is a true diamond," she said.
On the Congress fielding former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, also a Dalit, against Kovind, Anupriya earlier told reporters, "What I don't understand is, when the Congress was in a position to ensure the victory of its candidate, it never fielded a Dalit woman. This shows the anti-Dalit mindset of that party."
Bhupender Yadav, Kovind's authorised representative for the presidential poll, said the NDA nominee had come to Lucknow to seek the support of the members of the electoral college.
He added that Kovind would now visit the other states.
Sources in the BJP said a Union minister, a senior party leader and two MPs would accompany Kovind on his nationwide tour to reach out to all the members of the electoral college.
Though he would be meeting only with the MPs and MLAs who have pledged their loyalty with him, the NDA's presidential pick would appeal to all the members of the electoral college to support his candidature, they added.
With over 62 per cent of the votes firmly behind him, Kovind's election as the next president is almost certain.
Besides the BJP and its NDA allies, the TRS, YSRCP, AIADMK, BJD and the JD(U) have also announced their support to him.
The presidential election is scheduled for July 17 and the counting of votes will take place on July 20.
Kovind filed his nomination in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on June 23, while opposition candidate Kumar is yet to file hers.
If elected, Kovind will be the second Dalit president after K R Narayanan.