'We're all rashtrapatis now'
The country's presidential poll may have come to feel like a two-person contestwith one inevitable winner, but in truth there is more to this race than the political might of Pranab Mukherjee and Purno Sangma. Over 60 candidates have already filed nominations before the designated Returning Officer, Rajya Sabha secretary general Dr VK Agnihotri. And on July 19, a host of independent hopefuls — from rickshaw pullers and cooks, to housewives and lawyers — will want a battle for the country's highest constitutional post.
Sunita Chaudhry, for instance, is a housewife from South Delhi. As one crosses the maze of lanes and bylanes that together makeher unauthorised locality of Khirki Extension, one finds policemen trying hard
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There are those, of course, for whom the process is just an opportunity to seethe Parliament House from inside. For over 25 years, Delhi's Ram Krishna Mittal had stared at the building when his bus went past it on its daily route. Wanting to be president, however, gave him the rare chance to visit the secretary general's office in the central building.
At Delhi's Jantar Mantar, though, Santosh Kumar Singh is on a hunger strike and is crying foul. His nomination papers were rejected by the Returning Officer on June 21 since he failed to submit any of the requisite documents. The cook of Bollywood actor Anupam Kher, Singh has officially been declared dead after he was made to flee his village and was disowned by his family for marrying a Dalit in 2000.
Hailing from Varanasi, Singh had filed a nomination to prove that his soul and body was still intact. "When I visited a police station in Delhi to challenge my death, I was told to do something like get involved in a crime to generate some document. When the presidential polls were announced, I just thought that instead of getting involved in a crime, I shall submit nomination papers. But, they were rejected as I had not produced any voter ID. How can I get a voter ID when I have been declared dead back home?" Singh points out.
Although the constitution has provisions to restrict the number of non-serious candidates in the presidential election, there is never a dearth of independents.
The highest ever 106 nominations in any presidential election were received for the July 19 polls, with a record of 41 filing their papers on the last day of nominations - Saturday. A total of 33 nominations, including 17 on Saturday, were rejected outright by the returning officer for want of documents leaving 73 nominations for scrutiny.
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