JAMMU/NEW DELHI, July 20: Ram Nath Kovind, the ruling NDA coalition’s candidate, was today elected as India’s 14th President with an overwhelming majority of votes from the country’s lawmakers including the Parliament and State Assemblies.
Kovind defeated the joint opposition candidate Meira Kumar, a former Lok Sabha Speaker, garnering 65.65 percent of the votes in the Electoral College, the Returning Officer for the poll announced today.
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Expressing happiness over the “extensive” support Kovind got from the Electoral College, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “congratulations to Ram Nath Kovind Ji on being elected the President of India! Best wishes for a fruitful & inspiring tenure.”
The 71-year old Kovind, a former Bihar Governor who will be the second Dalit to hold the top Constitutional position, received 2930 votes with a value of 702044, the Returning Officer, Anoop Mishra, said.
Kovind is the first BJP member to be elected President. He will take oath on July 25, succeeding President Pranab Mukherjee, for a five-year term.
Kumar, also a Dalit, polled 1844 votes with a value of 367314. She got 34.35 percent vote share.
In the emphatic victory of Ram Nath Kovind, Jammu and Kashmir contributed 8988 votes that mostly came from BJP and its coalition partners including People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and People’s Conference (PC). The BJP, for the second time, managed to get the vote of Independent MLA from Zanskar, Bakir Rizvi, who was previously with the PDP but his vote in April 2017 Legislative Council elections had led to the defeat of PDP candidate and victory of BJP nominee.
Another significant outcome of the Presidential election in Jammu and Kashmir was the continued support of CPM MLA MY Tarigami and two Independent MLAs-Hakim Mohammad Yasin (Khansaheb) and Pawan Gupta (Udhampur) to the Opposition, Congress-National Conference.
Official data of the Presidential election counting, available with the Excelsior, revealed that 56 MLAs voted for BJP-backed Ram Nath Kovind while 30 MLAs opted for Congress-backed Meira Kumar, former Lok Sabha Speaker. Both the candidates had personally visited Srinagar, the summer capital of the State, to garner support for them.
Out of 87 elected MLAs, who were eligible for voting in the Presidential election, 86 had cast their votes during polling held in Srinagar on July 17. Independent MLA from Langate, Engineer Abdul Rashid has abstained from the voting while two Nominated women MLAs were not eligible for voting in the Presidential election.
As each MLA of Jammu and Kashmir Assembly has vote value of 72 for the Presidential election, Kovind polled 4032 votes (65.1 per cent) while Meira Kumar got 2160 votes (34.9 per cent).
Clubbed with nine Members of Parliament from Jammu and Kashmir, who had voted in the Parliament Hall, Kovind got 8988 votes from J&K while Kumar polled 3576. As each MP of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha has vote value of 708, BJP candidate polled vote of seven MPs (four from BJP and three from PDP) totaling 4956 while Kumar secured two votes of MPs (one each from National Conference and Congress) accounting for 1416 votes.
BJP has three Lok Sabha and one Rajya Sabha seats in the State while PDP has two Rajya Sabha and one Lok Sabha seats. NC has one Lok Sabha while Congress has one Rajya Sabha seat. One Lok Sabha seat of Anantnag-Pulwama is vacant.
The voting for the Presidential election from Jammu and Kashmir almost went on expected lines.
Out of 56 votes of MLAs garnered by the PDP-BJP Alliance for Ram Nath Kovind, 28 belonged to PDP, 25 to BJP, two to People’s Conference of Sajjad Lone (a BJP ally) and Independent MLA from Zanskar, Bakir Rizvi, an ally the BJP found in April 2017 Legislative Council election leading to surprise victory of party candidate, Vikram Singh Randhawa to the Council and defeat of the PDP nominee Abdul Qayoom Dar. Randhawa had won through lottery system.
The cross-voting by Bakir Rizvi, who had to vote for the PDP, as per the understanding reached by the Alliance partners, had defected to BJP on the assurance of Ministerial berth and facilities to his constituency, leading to PDP candidate’s defeat and acrimony between the coalition partners for some time.
Independent MLA from Udhampur Pawan Gupta had announced after the Presidential election that he voted for the BJP but data showed that he had sided with the Congress as Kovind got 56 votes only while Meira polled 30 votes of MLAs.
Of 30 votes of Meira, 15 belonged to National Conference, 12 Congress and one each of MY Tarigami (CPM), Hakim Mohammad Yasin (PDF) and Pawan Gupta.
BJP sources said Bakir Rizvi voted for them and not Pawan Gupta.
The PDP-BJP Alliance has established its supremacy in the Legislative Assembly by taking 56 votes. With two nominated women MLAs also belonging to the PDP and BJP, the party’s strength stood at 58 out of 89 MLAs in the Lower House, just one short of two-third majority. The coalition Government was also just one member short of two-third majority in the Legislative Council.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti today congratulated Ram Nath Kovind on being elected as the 14th President of India.
In her congratulatory message to the President-elect, the Chief Minister said that his victory marked an important milestone in the political history of the country.
She said that Kovind’s election reflects the empowerment of the underprivileged, backward, minorities and other weaker sections of the society.
Mehbooba hoped the tenure of Kovind would prove to be “inspiring, encouraging and egalitarian”.
On the victory of Kovind, Minister of State in the PMO, Dr Jitendra Singh tweeted: “a well deserved historic victory of Ram Nath Kovind Ji. You will add glory to Rashtrapati Bhavan.” Dr Singh had accompanied Kovind to Srinagar during his election campaign.
Meanwhile, J&K BJP unit today celebrated the election of Kovind as new President of the country.
BJP national general secretary (Org.) Ram Lal, along with State president and MLA Jammu West Sat Sharma, joined the jubiliant BJP leaders and activists in hundreds dancing to the tunes of traditional drum beats, airing victory slogans, firing crackers and distributing sweets.
Ram Lal, while addressing the jubilant pack of BJP leaders and activists, said that the election of Ram Nath Kovind is the victory of democracy. The people of India have got a great personality as the 14th President of India, he added. BJP took out victory rallies all across the Jammu region.
Meanwhile, Kovind said: “I never aspired to be the President. My win is a message to those discharging their duties with integrity. My election as the President is an evidence of the greatness of Indian democracy,” Kovind told the media after his victory was announced. “I am feeling emotional.”
Congratulating her poll rival, Meira Kumar said it had fallen on Kovind to uphold the Constitution in letter and spirit in “these challenging times”.
Kumar said that her fight for secularism, the oppressed and the marginalized would continue.
Modi also congratulated Kumar for her campaign, saying it was “in the spirit of democratic ethos and values we all are proud of”.
Hailing as “historic” Kovind’s election, BJP chief Amit Shah said it is a “victory for the poor, downtrodden and marginalized and their aspirations”.
A total of 4,896 voters — 4,120 MLAs and 776 elected MPs — were eligible to cast their ballot. MLCs of States with Legislative Council are not part of the Electoral College.
The Electoral College comprised Members of Parliament and members of Legislative Assemblies of all States.
While the value of an MLA’s vote depends on the population of his or her State, the value of an MP’s vote remains the same at 708.
The polling was marked by cross-voting in various States where many opposition members favoured Kovind.
While 522 MPs voted for Kovind, Kumar secured support of 225 Parliamentarians.
The Vice-Presidential election will be held on August 5. While BJP has nominated a former party president, Venkaiah Naidu, the opposition has fielded former West Bengal governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi.
The rains in Delhi today reminded him of his ‘kachcha’ home in his paternal village, President-elect Ram Nath Kovind said today and sent out the emotive message that he represented all those getting drenched or sweating it out so they could get a meal.
In his first comments after his election, Kovind, 71, who will be only the second Dalit to occupy the highest Constitutional position, asserted that protecting the Constitution and maintaining its dignity would be his duty.
He said he never thought or aspired to be the President but his “tireless service” to his society and country had brought him to this position.
This sense of tireless service was an “Indian tradition” and his election as the President was a symbol of the greatness of Indian democracy, Kovind told reporters at his Akbar Road residence.
“It is a very emotional moment for me personally. It is raining a lot in Delhi today and it reminds me of days when I would stay in my paternal village. It was a ‘kachcha’ home of mud walls. The straw roof would not be able to stop water during rains. We all brothers and sisters would huddle around a wall, waiting for the rains to stop,” he said.
“There would be so many Ram Nath Kovinds in the country today, getting drenched in rains, doing farm work, labour and sweating it out so that they can get their evening meals. I want to tell them that this Ram Nath Kovind of Paraunkh village is going to Rashtrapati Bhavan as their representative,” the President-elect continued.
His election to a position held by distinguished personalities like Rajendra Prasad, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, A P J Abdul Kalam and Pranab Mukherjee had given him a sense of huge responsibility, he said.
An emotional but poised Kovind said his election was a message to all those who were discharging their duties with honesty and integrity.
Citing a Sanskrit proverb, he said he would assure every citizen of the country that he would work relentlessly to serve the country and make everyone happy.
The former Bihar Governor and two-term Rajya Sabha member thanked the people of India and elected representatives for showing their confidence in him.
He also sent his good wishes to Meira Kumar, his rival in the election and the opposition’s candidate.