The National Democratic Alliance's vice presidential nominee M Venkaiah Naidu on Tuesday filed his nomination and reached out to parties across the political divide, saying he no longer belonged to the Bharatiya Janata Party and would work to strengthen democratic institutions if elected.
Joined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and party veteran L K Advani besides allies and members of non-NDA parties like All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Telangana Rashtra Samiti, the former Union minister submitted his nomination papers for the election scheduled for August 5.
Tuesday was the last day for filing nominations.
Addressing a 'farewell' press conference later, Naidu played down reports that he was not very keen on taking the new responsibility. He said the NDA making him its nominee was, in fact, an 'honour' and that he would uphold the dignity of the office if elected.
He said he wanted to see Modi's return to power in the 2019 Lok Sabha election and then join social service but 'destiny decided otherwise'.
Naidu, who quit the BJP after he was nominated to contest the vice presidential poll, suggested he was keen on strengthening Modi's 'great leadership' but rejected reports that he wished to continue as minister.
"The country has got a great leadership and we should strengthen the country through that leadership, and move forward. That was my wish. There was no intention as some people are saying that I wanted to continue as minister...," he said.
"I had already made up my mind. I told my colleagues also that I want to see Modi come back again in 2019 and then I will call it off and join social service... but destiny decided otherwise. I have agreed with whatever decision was taken finally after discussion," Naidu added.
Having been 'brought up' by the party after he lost his mother at a very young age, Naidu said, it was 'very painful' to leave the organisation that he treated like his mother.
He said he enjoyed working among people and in the party.
"The office of vice president has a different profile. It has different norms of function... I hope I will be able to do justice," Naidu said, terming his nomination an 'honour' for which he thanked the party leadership.
Noting that the vice president's office has been held by the illustrious people like Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Zakir Hussain, M Hidayatullah, R Venkataraman, Shanker Dayal Sharma and Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, he said he would work to uphold the standards set by them.
"I am fully aware of the august responsibilities associated with the office. I would like to assure the people of the country that, on being elected, I will uphold the traditions and standards set by the worthy predecessors. I will uphold the dignity of the office of the vice president," he said.
India's beauty and strength lie in its parliamentary democratic system, Naidu said, adding his endeavour would be to strengthen it further.
Naidu said he would continue as a member of the Rajya Sabha and cast his vote in the vice presidential poll.
Naidu's win is all but certain due to the NDA's numerical superiority over opposition parties, which have fielded Gopal Krishna Gandhi against him.
Top leaders, including Modi, union ministers and allies like Ram Vilas Paswan, were among the proposers and seconders of his nomination. Naidu thanked Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, NDA's allies and other parties for backing his candidacy.
He spoke about the difference between the job of the vice president, which has 'defined constitutional responsibilities', and his public profile for the last four decades during which 'intensive interaction with people' had been a way of life and also a passion.
Naidu said he had now withdrawn himself from the party.
"I am now above party. I do not belong to a party."
Earlier, he called on party stalwarts like ailing former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi and sought their blessings.