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NDA's presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind will file his nomination papers tomorrow 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. 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 AIADMK, BJD, TRS and JD(U) have announced their support to the Dalit leader, making his win an almost foregone conclusion. BJP President 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 said. 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, BJP source said. A group of opposition parties on Thursday announced that former Speaker Meira Kumar, also a Dalit leader, would be their joint candidate against Kovind. 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 K R Narayanan, who was in the Rashtrapati Bhavan in 1997-2002. A low profile Dalit activist 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.