NEW DELHI: Thirty-seven years after the formation of the BJP, the saffron outfit succeeded in installing one from its ranks, Ram Nath Kovind, as the 14th President of the country. Kovind polled 65.65 per cent of the votes in the electoral college, making the combined Opposition look small. With significant cross-voting in key states on the radar of the BJP, the Opposition camp is also now left with a sense of doubt about unity in their ranks.
About 4 pm on Thursday, electoral officer Anoop Mishra declared Kovind elected as the next President. The 71-year-old President elect will be sworn in on July 25. The NDA nominee bagged 2,930 votes having the value of 7,02,044 in total against Kumar’s 1,844 votes with a value of 3,67,314. Kovind missed beating the votes polled by the outgoing President Pranab Mukherjee by a whisker, as the latter had polled 69 per cent of the votes in 2012.
But eyebrows were raised as votes of 21 MPs were found to be invalid. A total of 77 votes across the country were termed invalid, after the electorate didn’t follow the stipulated norms set by the Election Commission. The BJP leaders sought to claim that the invalid votes belonged to the Opposition camp.
The Opposition, which had sought to make the Presidential election a precursor to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections after 18 parties came together in unity, was left with much soul-searching to be done as cross-voting in favour of the NDA nominee was reported from Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa, Gujarat, Mizoram, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and a few other states. “Maximum cross-voting seems to have been from Maharashtra where about 20 Opposition votes came to Kovind. In poll-bound Gujarat, eight Congress MLAs voted for Kovind, while two Opposition votes in Goa came the NDA’s way. Karnataka, which is heading to polls early next year, also witnessed cross-voting, with about 10 Opposition MLAs voting for Kovind, which in the case of Delhi stood at four,” said a senior BJP functionary.
West Bengal reported as many as 10 invalid votes even while state chief minister Mamata Banerjee had reportedly “tutored” her flock to vote for Kumar. One JD (U) MP also supported Kumar against the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s support to the NDA nominee.
Celebrations began among BJP leaders by noon, as sweets were distributed in Parliament where votes were being counted, which culminated with the feting of Kovind by the top brass of the saffron outfit in the evening. Prime Minister Narendra Modi noted the extensive win margin of Kovind, while sharing a 20-year old photograph of him attending the marriage function of the son of the President-elect, suggesting a personal bond between the two leaders.
Kovind, on his part, attributed his victory to the “greatness of Indian democracy”, while stating that it’s also a message to those who are discharging their duties with integrity. He added “I am feeling emotional”.
Kumar, while congratulating Kovind, said that now it has fallen upon Kovind to uphold Constitutional values. She, at the same time, said she would continue to fight for secularism and for the oppressed and marginalised sections of society.
Kovind would be the second Dalit President after K R Narayanan. He was Governor of Bihar when the BJP nominated him as Presidential nominee of the NDA. He had served two terms as Rajya Sabha MP too.