Did Shiv Sena miss Ram Nath Kovind's nomination filing deliberately?Officially, Sena has stated there was no specific reason behind not attending the event.
The Shiv Sena skipped the filing of nomination papers by the NDA's candidate Ram Nath Kovind for presidential poll today as it didn't want the BJP to take its regional ally for granted on the issue, said a highly-placed source in the Uddhav Thackeray-led party. Interestingly, the source of the Sena, which had in 2007 and 2012 backed the then UPA nominees during the presidential polls, suggested the party has extended support to Kovind reluctantly and it would still have preferred nomination of either RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat or veteran agriculturist MS Swaminathan, whose names it had suggested earlier.
Officially, Sena has stated there was no specific reason behind not attending the event. Speaking to PTI, Sena spokesperson and MP Sanjay Raut said, "I and Anand Adsul (party MP) have been in Delhi for the two days. We signed as proposers on the nomination form (of Kovind) and returned to Mumbai only yesterday. There was no specific reason why we did not attend Kovind's filing of nomination papers today. We just didn't go."
For his part, Adsul, who was among proposers, blamed "miscommunication" regarding the timing of the event as the reason for not attending it.
When Kovind's candidature was announced by the BJP, Thackeray had initially said his party was against backing him if his nomination was aimed at garnering Dalit votes. However, a day later, Thackeray changed his tack and extended support to the NDA's pick for the top office. Sena, a key constituent of the NDA, shares an uneasy relationship with the BJP as it couldn't reconcile to the reality of the BJP's spectacular ascent to power at the Centre and in Maharashtra.
Raut said that Sena still sticks to the names of Bhagwat and Swaminathan.
"...The BJP chose somebody else (instead of Bhagwat or Swaminathan) which is OK. Once he (Kovind) is nominated as the presidential candidate, he is above all party politics," Raut said.
In a bid to needle the BJP, Sena had proposed the name of Bhagwat on Hindutva line as the likely nominee for the presidential poll. However, as the RSS chief didn't show any inclination, the party proposed the name of Swaminathan who too didn't show any interest.
According to the source, who is believed to have Thackeray's ears, another reason for the party not attending the nomination filing event was that it wanted to send a message to the BJP that the latter is dependent on Sena's support in the matters of the national importance.
"We have already announced our support for Kovind and even signed as proposers. However, the BJP had to be given a message that however powerful it may be, it would still need our support in the matters of the national importance," he said.
Kovind today filed his nomination papers before the Lok Sabha secretary general in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, 15 chief ministers, many Union ministers, besides a galaxy of the BJP leaders.