Shimla: Three weeks ago, Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind and his family were denied entry into the President's retreat in Mashobhra near Shimla because they did not have prior permission. Mr Kovind has now been picked by the ruling BJP as its nominee for the next President and could by next month be the custodian of the sprawling presidential summer retreat.
Mr Kovind, 71, was on a family vacation in around Shimla in late May and while he and his wife traveled in an official car, the rest of his family used hired taxis for sight seeing trips, reports new agency Press Trust of India. When he reached Mashobra, about 15 km from the Himachal Pradesh capital, the Governor sought to visit the presidential retreat, which is a high security zone. He was not allowed to.
"The Bihar governor visited the Kalyani helipad, constructed especially for the president, and I suggested he should visit forests of the Shimla water supply catchment area, known as one of the best maintained forests in the world. He was fascinated by the greenery and scenic beauty," said Shashi Kant, adviser to Himachal Pradesh Governor Acharya Devvrat.
The President visits the retreat at least once a year and his core office shifts during his stay.
Ram Nath Kovind is not expected to encounter hurdles in his way to the President's post. The BJP and its allies have about 48 per cent of the vote in the electoral college that selects the President and with the support of regional parties like Naveen Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal and Tamil Nadu's AIADMK, have the numbers to win an election if one is held on July 17. Votes will be counted on July 20.
The BJP's selection of Ram Nath Kovind, a Dalit leader, has also cleaved the opposition, which has been attempting to unite to jointly field a candidate for President against the BJP's nominee. Dalit icon Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party has said she will not object to Mr Kovind unless the opposition too fields a Dalit leader.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, whose Janata Dal (United) is a key element of the united front that the opposition is attempting, visited Governor Kovind last evening to congratulate him on his nomination. He said he would state his party's stand at an opposition meeting later this week, but praised Mr Kovind for "an ideal relationship" with the Bihar government.
(With inputs from PTI)