Presidential Election 2017: NDA nominee Ram Nath Kovind looks all set to become the next President of India. Polling for the Presidential election started in the Parliament and legislative assemblies of state at around 10 am. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was one of the first voters. With around 70% of required votes in favour of Kovind, the BJP exuded with confidence even as the opposition called the poll a “clash of ideologies’.
Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu said, “Kovind ji will win (the election) with a respectable and comfortable margin.” Another Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Kovind will secure a “decisive victory” and would turn out as an “honest” president, who, he said, will work hard according to the Constitution. “It would have been better if there was consensus (among all parties over Kovind’s nomination). But no issues,” PTI quoted him as saying.
A Dalit leader and former Bihar governor, Kovind looks set to replace President Pranab Mukherjee whose terms will end on July 24. Kovind would also be a first leader from the RSS camp occupying the top office of the President. He is pitted against opposition’s nominee Meira Kumar.
On the backfoot even before the Presidential election, the Congress put a brave face. “The president should be a person pursuing an ideology under which everybody should be equal for him. And when there is a clash of ideologies, I think our candidate (Kumar) is the best,” senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said.
Another Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge appealed all leaders to vote as per their conscience. “We believe in democracy and that’s why we are contesting (the poll). All the voters, including those from the BJP, should also vote as per their conscience,” Kharge told PTI.
CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury twitted, “Hope the electoral college picks the custodian of India’s Constitution thoughtfully….Vote to uphold constitutional values of our republic.”
The day also witnessed some drammatic developments as crack in the so-called united Opposition came to the fore. In Uttar Pradesh, Shivpal Yadav faction of the Samajwadi party voted for Kovind. He said the move had the approval of party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav.
BSP chief Mayawati was not worried about the winning candidate as the next President is set to be a Dalit. The nominees of both, the NDA and the Opposition, are from the Dalit community. This is the first time that Dalit candidates are being pitched from both the sides. Losing-winning is different. But the good part is that, a Dalit will become the President of India. It is a huge victory for our movement and party,” Mayawati told ANI.
In West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee urged lawmakers to vote against the BJP. “It’s a vote against injustice. For the sake of the country, we urge everyone to not support BJP and stand beside people,” she said. However, cross voting by TMC leaders were reported from West Bengal, which has been in the news recently for communal riots.
In Bihar, Nitish Kumar-led JD(U), BJP and its allies voted for Kovind, while the RJD and Congress voted for Kumar. In Odisha, ruling JD(U) voted for Kovind.
In Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal urged lawmakers to follow their conscience. The AAP has supported Kumar. “We are supporting Meira Kumar (opposition presidential candidate). All should vote following their conscience. In a democracy, whoever gets more votes wins,” Kejriwal said. However, a BJP MLA claimed that around 10-12 AAP MLAs voted for Kovind.