New Delhi: Incumbent Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari on Tuesday was elected for a second consecutive term in office.
Ansari, a nominee of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), defeated former Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh of the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) by a margin of 252 votes in a straight contest.
Ansari polled 490 votes as against 238 by Singh in the 778-member Electoral College comprising of all lawmakers of the two Houses of India’s bicameral Parliament including two nominated members of the Lok Sabha and 11 of the Rajya Sabha. In all eight votes were declared invalid. Forty two lawmakers either remained absent or chose not to exercise their voting rights.
Ansari, 75, becomes only the second individual after the first Vice-President Dr. S. Radhakrishnan to serve two consecutive terms in the office. The Indian Vice President is also the ex-officio Chairman of the Upper House Rajya Sabha.
Ansari had lost out to Pranab Mukherjee narrowly to get nominated by the UPA as its presidential candidate.
Polling started at a brisk pace at 10 in the morning in the Parliament House and concluded at 5 in the evening. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and the Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi came together and were among the early voters. They were followed by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party’s senior leaders Lal Krishna Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.
The dice was heavily loaded in favour of Ansari as besides all constituents of the UPA, the Left Front, Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party had announced their support to Ansari. Unlike the July 19 presidential election, which witnessed two NDA constituents Janata Dal (United) and Shiv Sena supporting Mukherjee who was installed as 13th President on July 25, the NDA stood united behind Singh. Whatever chances Singh anticipated to record an upset victory was marred with the Odisha’s ruling Biju Janata Dal’s decision to abstain from voting, although Tamil Nadu’s ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) supported Singh in his bid to become the second ever BJP leader after Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Ansari’s predecessor, to become Vice President of the Republic.
Besides the BJD, Left Front constituent Revolutionary Socialist Party also abstained from voting. BJD has 14 lawmakers in the Lok Sabha and seven in the Rajya Sabha, RSP has just two representatives in the Lok Sabha.
A total of 42 nomination papers were filed by 31 candidates during the 14-day nomination process, of which four sets of papers submitted by Ansari and three sets submitted by Singh were accepted. The nomination papers of 29 others were rejected on various grounds.
Despite Ansari’s comfortable victory expected, UPA managers were not willing to take chances and were eager to ensure that their voters do not mess up in stamping the ballot paper as over 80 votes were declared as invalid in the presidential election.
The soft-spoken Ansari as born on April 1, 1937 in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and is a career diplomat. He joined the prestigious Indian Foreign Service in 1961 and severed in various capacities including that of Indian ambassador to the UAE between 1976 and 1979.
He took over as the 12th Vice President of India on August 11, 2007 after defeating NDA nominee Najma Neptullah, the grand niece of famous freedom fighter Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, by 233 votes in 2007.