Biju Janata Dal (BJD) president and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today announced his party's support to NDA presidential poll candidate Ram Nath Kovind.
"After discussing with senior party leaders, BJD has decided to support the candidature of Ram Nath Kovind," Patnaik told reporters after receiving a telephone call from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Elaborating the reasons behind BJD's support to the NDA candidate, Patnaik said Ram Nath Kovind is an eminent lawyer belonging to the scheduled caste community.
"The office of the President of India is above political consideration and Biju Janata Dal wants to keep it above the politics," he said.
Stating that the Prime Minister spoke to him about the candidature of Ram Nath Kovind, Patnaik said, "He (PM) sought BJD's support in this regard."
"As you know, the last time when presidential elections were held, BJD had proposed the name of PA Sangma, an eminent leader from the tribal community. Based on the request of BJD, many parties including the BJP had supported his nomination," he said.
Asked whether BJD supported the NDA candidate out of any pressure, party spokesman dismissed it and said, "We continue to maintain equal distance from both BJP and Congress. The post of the President of India is above party politics."
Even as several regional parties either indicated their support or opposition to the NDA's presidential pick, Patnaik initially kept everyone guessing as regards his party's stance on the issue saying he will first discuss the matter with senior party leaders.
Out of the 21 Lok Sabha MPs from Odisha, 20 belong to the BJD. The party has eight members in the Rajya Sabha, besides the support of an independent MP, and 117 MLAs in the state assembly.