Pranab elected President
Cakewalk: Beats Sangma with more votes than expected in the race to Raisina
Pranab Mukherjee was on Sunday elected as the country’s 13th President, registering a landslide victory over his BJP-backed rival Purno A Sangma, with a margin that surpassed expectation.
The UPA candidate’s victory in the presidential election was a fait accompli, but counting of votes on Sunday exposed the chinks in the armour of the principal Opposition party.
The results made it clear that at least 15 MLAs of the ruling BJP in Karnataka voted in favour of Mukherjee, flouting the party line.
Mukherjee, who will be sworn in as the President next Wednesday, will be the 13th occupant of the majestic Rashtrapati Bhavan since Independence in 1947.
The first President, Rajendra Prasad, was elected to the high office twice.
The value of the votes secured by Mukherjee was pegged at 7,13,763, well beyond the half-way mark of 5,25,140 in an electoral college of total vote value of 10,98,882.
Sangma secured votes worth 315987, Rajya Sabha Secretary General and Returning Officer for the Presidential polls, V K Agnihotri, announced after the counting of the votes that went for almost seven hours in the Parliament House.
“I received much more from the country, its political establishment and people than I could give them back. Now since I have been entrusted with the responsibility of protecting and preserving the Constitution of India, I will try my best to justify the faith the nation has reposed in me,” 76-year-old Mukherjee told journalist in front of his official residence at Talkatora Road in New Delhi.
Agnihotri said that altogether 4,659 votes were polled, but 81 were invalid.
The quota sufficient to get a candidate elected was determined by dividing the total number of first preference votes secured by both candidates by two and then adding one to the quotient then pegging it at 51,4875.
Mukherjee secured 3,095 first preference votes worth 7,13,763. Sangma got 1,483 first preference votes with total value being 3,15,987.
“As the first preference votes secured by Pranab Mukherjee were greater than the requisite quota, I, in my capacity as returning officer, declare that he has been duly elected to the office of the President of India,” announced Agnihotri after the seven-hour long counting concluded in the Parliament House.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the ruling party’s general secretary Rahul Gandhi reached Mukherjee’s residence and congratulate him soon after the counting of ballots confirmed that the vote value of the UPA’s nominee had already crossed the halfway mark.
Defence Minister A K Antony and Home Minister P Chidambaram also turned up to congratulate Mukherjee, who stepped down as Finance Minister on June 26, ending his decades-long career both as a parliamentarian as well as a Union minister.
Mukherjee – a Congress veteran and the principal troubleshooter of the UPA since 2004 – was supported by the SP, JD(S) and BSP in addition to the ruling coalition’s constituents like the NCP, DMK, IUML, All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen, RJD and RLD.
Though Trinamool Congress – the second largest and the most troublesome constituent of the UPA – was reluctant to support Mukherjee, the party chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced just two days before the polls that her MPs and MLAs too would vote for him.
The Janata Dal (United) and Shiv Sena – both constituents of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance – also pledged support to Mukherjee soon after the UPA declared him as its nominee, thus making his victory in the polls a foregone conclusion.
Sangma, a former Speaker of the Lok Sabha, quit the NCP as Sharad Pawar-led party did not extend support to him, although AIADMK supremo and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha joined her counterpart in Orissa and Biju Janata Dal leader Biju Patnaik proposed him as a candidate, stressing the need to elect a tribal leader to the office of the President.
Of the 748 MPs, who had cast votes in the polls on July 19 last, altogether 527 voted in favour of Mukherjee, contributing a vote-value of 373,116 in his kitty.
Sangma got the votes of 206 MPs, who added a value of 145,848 to his tally. The votes of 15 MPs were invalid, in addition to SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s that was declared cancelled earlier.
A senior Congress leader claimed that some BJP MPs from Karnataka too had cross-voted in favour of Pranab Mukherjee. The BJP Karnataka unit has been asked to form a committee to thoroughly probe into the “embarrasing cross-voting”, by its party MLAs in the Presidential poll held on July 19. Senior leaders of the party said that it will take stringent action against those politicians for failing to comply with the brief.
“The party is taking this matter very seriously. The central leadership has asked the Karnataka BJP unit to form a committee to probe into the cross-voting by our MLAs. Once we get the committee's report, we’ll take appropriate actions," BJP leader, Dharmendra Pradhan, told a news agency.
Course for Pranab’s chefs
Chefs in Rashtrapati Bhavan could undergo a crash course in preparing some Bengali delicacies like fish curries once President-elect Pranab Mukherjee moves in - if his son Abhijit has his way, report agencies from New Delhi.
“I have given it a thought. If protocol does not stand in the way, I will request Delhi’s Bengali restaurant Oh!Calcutta to help the cooks of Rashtrapati Bhavan learn,” he added.