India elects new president today

Indian parliamentarians and legislators will exercise their franchise today to elect the country’s new president amid indications that UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee will walk away with a comfortable margin against BJP-backed Purno Agitok Sangma.

A total of 4,896 lawmakers– 776 members of parliament and 4,120 members of legislative assemblies in states–are eligible to vote in parliament and state assemblies. The total vote value is 10.98 lakh and a candidate needs to get 5,49,442 vote value to win the race if all voters exercise their franchise.

Vote counting is scheduled for Sunday and the results are likely to be announced by early evening.

Election managers of the United Progressive Alliance are hopeful of a runaway victory for Pranab who is expected to get around 7.5 lakh vote value.

In the run up to the presidential polls, UPA ally Trinamool Congress made a U-turn on its decision to support Sangma.

West Bengal Chief Minister fell out with the UPA last month after she had rejected Pranab as the coalition’s candidate for president. The Trinamool Congress was the only UPA member which had opposed Pranab’s candidacy.

Besides the UPA and its four supporting parties– Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Janata Dal(S)– Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance constituents Janata Dal(U) and Shiv Sena as well as the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Forward Bloc have declared their support for Pranab.

The Communist Party of India, Rashtriya Shakti Party, Telugu Desam Party and Telangana Rashtra Samithi, which together have about 36,000 votes, are likely to abstain in the voting.

There are around 32,000 votes from smaller parties which have no presence in parliament but have legislators in the states.

Sangma, a former Lok Sabha Speaker, jumped into the fray playing the tribal card with initial support of key regional parties Biju Janata Dal ruling eastern state of Odisha, and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in power in Tamil Nadu. BJP and Akali Dal decided to back Sangma, who quit the Nationalist Congress Party that he founded with Sharad Pawar, to contest the elections.

On the eve of presidential elections, Congress President Sonia Gandhi yesterday hosted a lunch where all constituents and supporting parties, including Trinamool Congress, were present.

Sangma, on Trinamool Congress not voting for him, said he had no grudge against Mamata Banerjee for supporting his rival Pranab Mukherjee.

Asked if he was disappointed at Mamata’s last-moment decision, he said, “She has every right to decide for her party. I have nothing against her….”

“You wait till July 22,” he said when asked about his prospects.

Meanwhile, UPA nominee Hamid Ansari yesterday filed his nomination papers for re-election as vice-president in the presence of Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and leaders of the ruling alliance who are confident of his overwhelming victory in the August 7 polls.

Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh handed over the first set of nomination papers on behalf of Ansari to Lok Sabha Secretary General T K Vishwanathan who is the returning officer for the vice-presidential elections.

Seventy-five-year-old Ansari is set to become the second person to get two consecutive terms after Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.

According to UPA election managers, Mamata will back Ansari as she did for Pranab in the presidential polls.

Source: The Daily Star

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