As lawmakers voted to elect India's next president, the ruling BJP exuded today confidence that NDA nominee Ram Nath Kovind would win with a "comfortable" margin, while the opposition said its joint pick Meira Kumar was the best choice in the "clash of ideologies".
"Kovind ji will win (the election) with a respectable and comfortable margin," Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu told reporters ahead of the polling.
Naidu, however, refused to comment on the BJP parliamentary board's meeting to choose the ruling alliance's vice presidential candidate. Let the presidential poll get over first, he said.
Another Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Kovind will register a "decisive victory" and would turn out as an "honest" president, who, he said, will work hard according to the Constitution.
"It would have been better if there was consensus (among all parties over Kovind's nomination). But no issues," he said.
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said the fight between Kovind and Kumar was "one of ideologies" and rated the latter as the best choice for the president's post.
"The president should be a person pursuing an ideology under which everybody should be equal for him. And when there is a clash of ideologies, I think our candidate (Kumar) is the best," Azad, the Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, said.
Backing Kumar, the CPI(M) urged voters, comprising MPs and MLAs, to pick the "custodian of the Constitution" thoughtfully.
"Hope the electoral college picks the custodian of India's Constitution thoughtfully....Vote to uphold constitutional values of our republic," party general secretary Sitaram Yechury said on Twitter.
Yechury and senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge asked all MPs and MLAs exercising their franchise to vote according to their "inner conscience".
"We believe in democracy and that's why we are contesting (the poll). All the voters, including those from the BJP, should also vote as per their conscience," Kharge said.
With both Kovind and Kumar belonging to the Dalit community, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati expressed satisfaction that a Dalit leader would occupy the office of the president irrespective of who won the poll.
Mayawati also claimed it was because of her party that the NDA and the opposition had to field candidates from the community.
"Winning or losing (a poll) is a different issue. Whoever wins, the good thing is a Scheduled Caste person will be the country's president. And I think it is a good thing for our movement, the party.
"And the NDA, the BJP had to field a Dalit candidate for the presidential poll because of the BSP and the other side (the opposition) too," she told reporters outside Parliament.
The voting for the presidential poll began at 10 am and will continue till 5 pm.
The result of the poll will be declared on July 20.