Members of Parliament and Members of state legislatures across the country voted to elect the 14th President of India on Monday. Prime Minister Modi casted his voted earlier in the day at the Parliament House. Several leaders, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi and central ministers casted their votes.
In total, 776 MPs and 4,120 MLAs were elegible to cast their ballot. The incumbent Pranab Mukherjee’s tenure ends on July 25.
The battle is between ruling BJP-led NDA combine’s candidate Ram Nath Kovind, who prior to his candidature served as the Governor of Bihar and Opposition party’s pick Meira Kumar. Kumar, former Congress MP served as the Speaker of Lok Sabha in previous Congress-led UPA 2 government.
Addressing a meeting of NDA contingent, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday congratulated Ram Nath Kovind “in advance” and assured him of his government’s support, a day before the election to the top constitutional post.
At a meeting of the NDA MPs which was also attended by Kovind, Modi recalled that the former Bihar governor had worked as a ‘sahyogi’ (aide) of Morarji Desai when he was the prime minister and said this government will offer all ‘sahyog’ (cooperation) to him.
Kovind’s win against opposition candidate Meira Kumar is a foregone conclusion as the ruling coalition has secured the support of nearly two-thirds of the electoral college, with some political parties even outside the NDA fold throwing their weight behind him.
Meanwhile, on the other hand, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said that presidential election demands a “vote of conscience” as it represents a clash of ideas and conflict of disparate values.
She termed the contest as Opposition’s fight against a “narrow-minded, divisive and communal vision” while addressing a gathering of opposition parties in New Delhi.
“We must have confidence in the values we believe in. This election represents a clash of ideas, a conflict of disparate values. The election demands a vote of conscience to preserve the India that the Mahatma and the illustrious generation of freedom fighters, joined by thousands upon the numbers of ordinary men and women, fought for,” she said.
She also added that numbers may be stacked against them, but “the battle must be fought and fought hard”.
The run up to the polls saw divisions in the Opposition ranks, especially with Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) promising support to the NDA candidate Kovind. They, however, have assured backing to Opposition candidate in Vice Presidential polls.
Samajwadi Party too is reported to be a divided house with a section of legislature tipped to break ranks and vote against the official party line.
As per reports, Kovind enjoys a whopping 2/3rd margin of support over Meira Kumar. The counting of votes will take place on Thursday.