With the voting for India’s next president coming to an end, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday exuded confidence that NDA nominee Ram Nath Kovind would secure victory with a “comfortable” margin, while the Opposition maintained that its joint pick Meira Kumar was the best choice in the “clash of ideologies.” Ahead of the polling, Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu said, “Kovind ji will win (the election) with a respectable and comfortable margin.” The presidential election is widely expected to be a lopsided contest which will culminate with the victory of BJP-backed Kovind.
Another Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Kovind will register a “decisive victory” in the race to Raisina Hills and added that he would turn out as an “honest” president who will work hard as per the Constitution. “It would have been better if there was a consensus (among all parties over Kovind’s nomination). But no issues,” he said.
On the other hand, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad described the fight between Kovind and Kumar as “one of ideologies” and rated the latter as the best choice for the coveted post. “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,” Azad, the Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, said.
On the eve of Presidential polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had congratulated NDA presidential candidate Kovind “in advance” and assured him of his government’s support. Meanwhile, Congress President Sonia Gandhi made a passionate appeal to the Opposition parties to fight harder in the elections despite the numbers being stacked against them. She also called upon the opposition parties to fight against “divisive and communal vision”. “We can’t and must not let India be hostage to those who wish to impose upon it narrow-minded, divisive and communal vision,” Gandhi had said.
While backing Kumar, the CPI(M) urged MPs and MLAs to pick the “custodian of the Constitution” thoughtfully. “Hope the electoral college picks the custodian of India’s Constitution thoughtfully….Vote to uphold constitutional values of our republic,” party general secretary Sitaram Yechury said on Twitter.
As both Kovind and Kumar belong to the Dalit community, BSP chief Mayawati expressed satisfaction that a Dalit leader would occupy the office of the president irrespective of who won the poll. She also claimed it was because of her party that the NDA and the opposition had to field candidates from the community.
Kovind, former Bihar governor, is expected to secure nearly 70 per cent of the electoral college votes, while former Lok Sabha speaker Kumar has the support of 17 opposition parties. The Opposition’s campaign dealt a severe blow by the JD(U), a Congress ally in Bihar, as it decided to back Kovind after being the first to moot the idea of putting up a joint candidate against the NDA’s. Subsequently, other parties also decided to rally behind Kovind.
Although both the BJP and Congress highlighted the caste of their candidates, Kumar had disapproved the campaign projecting it as a “Dalit versus Dalit” fight. Kovind, on the other hand, has underlined the importance of maintaining the supremacy of the Constitution and said he had had nothing to do with any party since he became governor.
The voting for the presidential poll began at 10 am and concluded at 5 pm. A total of 4,896 voters-4,120 MLAs and 776 elected MPs-were eligible to vote for a particular candidate. The counting of votes will take place on July 20 in New Delhi after all the ballot boxes have been brought from various state capitals. The tenure of incumbent President Pranab Mukherjee comes to an end on July 24.
Almost 99 per cent voting was recorded for electing India’s 14th president, said the returning officer for the poll. Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Gujarat, Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Nagaland, Uttarakhand and Puducherry were the states that recorded 100 per cent voting.
With PTI inputs