NEW DELHI: Thirty-seven years after its formation, the saffron party has finally succeeded in installing one of its own men as the 14th President of India -- Ram Nath Kovind. That the new President polled 65.65 per cent of electoral college votes shows the clinical execution of Amit Shah and team to make the combined Opposition look smaller. With significant cross-voting in key States on radar of BJP, the Opposition has been left behind doubting the unity of its flock. The 71-year-old will be sworn in on July 25.
The NDA nominee bagged 2,930 votes having the value of 7,02,044 against Opposition candidate Meira Kumar’s 1,844 with the 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.
A total of 77 votes across the country were termed invalid, after the electorates didn’t follow stipulated norms set by the Election Commission. BJP leaders sought to claim the invalid votes belonged to the Opposition camp. However, what raised eyebrows was votes of 21 MPs being declared invalid.
The Opposition camp, which sought to make the election a precursor to 2019 Lok Sabha polls by forming a 18-party jamboree, was left sour-faced after reports of cross-voting in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa, Gujarat, Mizoram, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and a few other States. “Maximum cross-voting seems to have been in Maharashtra where about 20 Opposition votes came to Kovind. In the poll-bound Gujarat, eight Congress MLAs voted for our candidate, while two Opposition votes in Goa came this way,” said a senior BJP functionary.
“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.” West Bengal reported as many as 10 invalid votes though Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee reportedly “tutored” her flocks to vote for Kumar. Meanwhile one JD(U) MP is understood to have supported Kumar against Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s support for the NDA nominee.
Though the final results were announced by 4 pm, celebrations within the saffron party camp began early noon. Sweets were distributed in Parliament where the counting was being held. Prime Minister Narendra Modi noted the extensive victory margin while sharing a 20-year old photograph of him attending the marriage function of Kovind’s son, indicating his bond with the President-elect. For his part, Kovind attributed the victory to “greatness of Indian democracy”, while stating that it’s also a message to those who are discharging their duties with integrity.
“I am feeling emotional,” he said. Congratulating the winner, Kumar said it was now up to Kovind to uphold Constitutional values and added she would continue her fight for secularism, oppressed classes and marginalised communities. Kovind would be the second Dalit, after K R Narayanan, to become the President of the country. He was Governor of Bihar when the BJP nominated him as Presidential candidate of the NDA.