Record 99% voting in presidential polls
Ruling National Democratic Alliance nominee Ram Nath Kovind, a former Rajya Sabha member from Uttar Pradesh and an ex-Bihar Governor, is all set to be the next President of India after the poll process ended on Monday. The way the numbers stack up, Kovind has a clear advantage over Opposition candidate Meira Kumar, a former Lok Sabha Speaker.
Instances of cross-voting have been reported in five States, including Gujarat, UP, Haryana, Punjab and Tripura, during the presidential polls as MPs and MLAs in the country made a beeline to polling stations to choose the 14th President of the nation. The total voting percentage was reportedly close to 99 per cent which is the highest voter turnout in presidential polls. Significantly, Legislators in UP, West Bengal and Bihar showed keen enthusiasm in choosing the next President.
The term of President Pranab Mukherjee expires on July 24 and a new President has to take over by July 25.
The ruling BJP exuded confidence that 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.
If elected, Kovind will be the second Dalit President of India after KR Narayanan who was the first from the community to hold the post.
According to Lok Sabha Secretary General Anoop Mishra, who is also the Returning Officer, total 714 MPs voted in Parliament.
The total voting percentage is expected to be 98 to 99 per cent which is the highest voter turnout in presidential polls. At least ten States have witnessed 100 per cent voting. “Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Gujarat, Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Nagaland, Uttarakhand and Puducherry have recorded 100 per cent voting. In Parliament House, the voting percentage was 99 per cent”, Mishra said.
He said while the sanctioned strength of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha is 776, 771 MPs were eligible to cast their votes. There are two vacancies each in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, while one BJP MP Chedi Paswan does not have voting rights. The TMC’s Tapas Pal, the BJD’s Ram Chandra Hansdak and Ambumani Ramadoss of the PMK did not cast their votes.
“In Delhi, 717 MPs were to cast their ballot but only 714 exercised their franchise. Fifty-four MPs had sought permissions to cast their vote in State capitals. These included Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, his UP counterpart Adityanath, his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya and Union minister Uma Bharti,” he said.
Mishra also said that except for Andhra Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur and Tripura, data has been received from all other States which indicates that the voting was “close to 100 per cent”
The BJP and allies have nearly 63 per cent of the vote while the Congress-led Opposition has a little over 35 per cent. Independents and other smaller parties, who have not made their choice known, have two per cent. The NDA is hoping to get over 70 per cent votes. Voting was held in 32 polling stations -- one in Parliament House Room No 62 and rest one each in State Legislative Assemblies.
Meanwhile the reports of cross-voting in several States including Gujarat, UP, Haryana, Punjab and Tripura may play a spoilsport thanks to factionalism in the Opposition camp.
Polling to choose the successor of Mukherjee, started simultaneously in Parliament in the national Capital and State Assemblies at 10 am. As voting picked up, many MPs, including women members, were seen queuing up in Parliament House outside the polling booth in Room No 62 for voting, that closed at 5 pm.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah were among the first to cast their votes in Parliament. Modi, clad in a beige colour sleeveless jacket over a white kurta-pyjama, reached the Parliament premises early to vote on Monday, also the first day of the over three-week Monsoon Session of Parliament.
Before casting his vote, the Prime Minister addressed the media, saying the Monsoon Session, which began on Monday, brings ‘hope’. “Like the Monsoon brings hope, this session also brings the same spirit of hope,” Modi said. “This session gives the country an opportunity to elect the President and the Vice-President,” he added.
Shah, who is an MLA from Gujarat, was allowed to cast his vote in Parliament. Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul also voted.
The presidential election has once again divided the Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son Akhilesh Yadav, with the father-son duo voting for separate candidates. Team Mulayam has supported the NDA candidate while Akhilesh supported the Opposition candidate.
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