Presidential candidate of India’s ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee gleaned the magic number of votes (around 518,000) to become the 13th president of India. He secured the required number during the ongoing counting of votes at Parliament House here on Sunday.
As expected, the UPA and its key allies including Samajwadi party, Bahujan Samaj Party and others had supported Mukherjee. He also received the support of opposition parties.
Mukherjee defeated the BJP-backed presidential candidate P A Sangma, an ex-speaker of parliament and a tribal representative from northeast India. The former finance minister garnered the overwhelming support of parliamentarians (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs) in the president’s election securing 373,116 votes from them. The remaining votes in his favour were cast by members of state assembles.
Sangma, on the other hand, managed to get 145,848 votes from MPs.
Ballot counting began amidst tight security in Parliament House in the presence of authorised representatives of both Mukherjee and Sangma at 11am. The first trend indicator arrived at 1pm after the votes of all the MPs were counted.
The representatives of the two presidential candidates inspected the seals of the ballot boxes and the counting began after ascertaining that they were not tampered with.
As many as 95 per cent of the 4,896 electors – 776 MPs and 4,120 MLAs – had exercised their franchise on Thursday at the polling centres set up in Parliament House and 30 other states and Union territories with assemblies.
With Mukherjee’s elevation, the ruling coalition has lost its principal trouble-shooter, its finance minister and the number two to the prime minister in the cabinet. Jockeying is on to fill all these posts. A full cabinet reshuffle can be expected in the coming weeks, possibly after September 6 when the monsoon session of parliament concludes.
Mukherjee’s emphatic win is a morale booster for the beleaguered ruling party, which faces parliamentary elections in 2014. Its image has been tarnished by corruption allegations against several ministers and demands that it take more action against graft.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assumed the additional portfolio of acting finance minister in June, replacing Mukherjee when he resigned to run for president.
Mukherjee, according to The Hindustan Times, is the third person to make the leap from union cabinet to the president’s office after Dr Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and Giani Zail Singh. Most of India’s other presidents held the post of vice president before their installation.
Mukherjee, 76, could also play an important role if one political party fails to get a clear mandate in the next general elections due by 2014.
(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AGENCIES)
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2012.