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Team Mukherjee confident of victory

Sangma suggested that a tribal become President for the first time

Image Credit: AP
Candidate of India's ruling alliance, Pranab Mukherjee, casts his vote during India's presidential election as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, third from left, and Congress party president Sonia Gandhi, left, along with other lawmakers look on in New Delhi, India, Thursday. Pranab Mukherjee was elected as the 13th president of India, Press Trust of India has reported
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New Delhi: Polling for the election of the new President of India on Thursday took place simultaneously in the Parliament House and state capitals indicating clear victory in favour of United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA) nominee Pranab Mukherjee.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi were among the first to cast their votes followed by Mukherjee himself. Regional party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (DMK) MK Alagiri was also among the earliest voters.

Voting was over at sharp 5.00pm (Indian standard time) in state assemblies and in Parliament House; 4896 legislators - 776 Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Members of Parliament (MPs) and 4,120 Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) participated in it listing their preference on a ballot paper.

With tilak (vermillion) on his forehead, Mukherjee looked confident as he voted for the next President expecting almost 65 per cent of the electoral college to vote for him. Over the last one month, the ruling UPA worked hard to gather together the support of its allies, friends and even some opposition parties to support Mukherjee.

In Kolkata, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee voted too in favour of Mukherjee. She declared on Monday that her party’s 50,000 votes would be cast in favour of Mukherjee. She made it clear that she was doing so reluctantly and that it hurt her to vote for Mukherjee.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi voted in Gujarat legislative assembly and veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader LK Advani, alongwith opposition leader in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, went to Parliament to cast vote in favour of PA Sangma. However, Gujarat BJP Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) of the Mahuva constituency Kanubhai Valabhai Kalsaria voted in favour of Pranab.

Besides the UPA and its four supporting parties — Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Janata Dal (Secular) — NDA members Janata Dal (United), Shiv Sena and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Forward Bloc supported Pranab.

Sangma cut away from his party Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), it being an ally of the UPA. NCP voted for Mukherjee.

Sangma played the tribal card, suggesting that a tribal become President for the first time. He has the support of most of the National Democratic Alliance led by BJP, Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Jayalalithaa’s All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). This adds up to about 35 per cent of the electoral college.

Interestingly, Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) decided to abstain from voting in the Presidential elections. The party had not declared its support for either candidate in the run-up to the polls.

According to highly placed sources, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan called up Raj Thackeray, seeking the support of MNS, which has 12 members in the 288-member state legislative assembly.

Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav voted for Sangma “by mistake” and later requested for a new ballot paper and was allowed to vote again. He realized his error much in time and was seen tearing his ballot paper and then voting afresh.

Mulayam has staunchly been by Mukherjee’s side since his candidature was announced by UPA. He was there when Mukherjee filed his nomination papers and was even seen holding hands with senior Congress leader AK Antony.

Communist Party of India (CPI), Republican Socialist Party (RSP), Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Telangana Rashtra Samithi, which together have about 36,000 votes, abstained from voting.

Indian President House or Rashtrapati Bhavan is the largest Presidential palace in the world. The President’s official car is a custom-built heavily armoured Mercedes Benz S600 (W221) Pullman Guard. And the President earns a salary of Rs150,000 a month.