NEW DELHI: Ram Nath Kovind’s triumph was a foregone conclusion given the NDA’s numerical superiority over the opposition, but his presidential bid got a push with lawmakers from rival parties cross-voting for him in several states including poll-bound Gujarat and Mamata Banerjee’s West Bengal.
BJP general secretary Bhupender Yadav, Kovind’s key election manager, claimed close to 116 lawmakers from rival parties, including the Congress, appeared to have voted for the NDA candidate.
The 71-year-old Kovind defeated joint opposition candidate Meira Kumar, a former Lok Sabha speaker, after garnering 65.65 percent of the votes in the electoral college.
A former Bihar governor, Kovind received 2,930 votes with a value of 7,02,044, said election Returning Officer Anoop Mishra. Kumar got 1,844 votes with a value of 3,67,314.
The states from where Kovind got votes from the rival camp included West Bengal, where the BJP is locked in a bitter, and often bloody, fight with the ruling TMC. Kovind clinched the votes of 11 MLAs in the state, five more than NDA’s tally of six.
He also managed to secure votes of seven lawmakers in the Left-ruled Tripura, where BJP or its NDA allies do not have any MLA. These included six TMC MLAs who are likely to join the BJP.
The Congress has much to worry about Gujarat where Assembly elections are due later this year, with at least eight of its MLAs appeared to have voted for the NDA’s candidate. The party has 57 MLAs in the state but Meira Kumar got only 49 votes.
The Congress party is gripped by a factional feud in Gujarat between Leader of the Opposition Shankarsinh Vaghela and state party chief Bharatsinh Solanki over who would leader the Assembly poll campaign.
In Maharashtra, the NDA nominee got 20 votes more than the alliance’s strength of 188 in the state assembly.
Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Goa, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi are among other states that witnessed cross-voting in Kovind’s favour.
“Going by the opposition’s strength in the Maharashtra Assembly, Meira Kumar should have got 90 votes, but secured only 77,” a jubilant state BJP chief spokesperson Madhav Bhandari told PTI.
“The opposition owes an explanation to the people for the loss of these 13 votes,” Bhandari said.
“Going by the BJP-led alliance’s strength, Kovind should have got at least 185 votes - 122 of BJP and 63 of Shiv Sena—plus votes of other alliance partners, but he got 208 votes,” Bhandari said.
On the other hand, Kumar should have pocketed at least 90 votes -- 83 of Congress-NCP combine, three of PWP, one of CPM, two of MIM and one of SP, Bhandari said. But she got only 77 votes, he said.
Of the 288 MLAs in the state, 287 had voted in the July 17 poll.
At least three of Goa’s 16 Congress MLAs were also suspected to have voted for Kovind.
“Yes, there was cross-voting. We have called a special meeting of the Congress Legislature Party tomorrow to discuss the issue. We want to find out who have cross-voted,” Leader of Opposition Chandrakant Kavlekar said.
In the 40-member Goa Assembly, whose current strength has been reduced to 38 due to resignation of two MLAs, the BJP has 12 members, Congress 16, GFP and MGP three each, Independents 3, and NCP 1.
Presuming that all 12 MLAs of the BJP, besides three each of its allies GFP, MGP and three independents voted for Kovind, his tally would have stood at 21. However, he clinched 25 votes.
Reacting to the instances of cross-voting, Bhupender Yadav took a dig at Meira Kumar for her appeal to the electoral college for a “conscience vote”. “Many lawmakers of the Congress followed their conscience and voted for Kovind,” he said, taking a swipe at Kumar.
He claimed out of the 116 opposition lawmakers who appeared to have voted for the NDA candidate, 30-35 were MPs.
There is secret voting in presidential elections and it is almost impossible to exactly identify which lawmaker cross-voted.