99% MPs, MLAs vote in Presidential election: Murmu tipped to win

The Asian Age.  | Vineeta Pandey

India, Politics

NDA candidate Droupadi Murmu, who is pitted against the united Opposition candidate, Yashwant Sinha, is the clear favourite to win

PM Modi, Union ministers Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh, Congress MPs Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, Union MoS Anupriya Patel, AAP MP Sanjay Singh, BJP MP Jayant Sinha, Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Nitin Gadkari, cast their votes for the election of the President, at Parliament House in New Delhi (PTI)

New Delhi: Amid claims and speculation over cross-voting, legislators across the country on Monday voted to elect the 16th President of India. The voting took place at Parliament House in New Delhi and all state and Union terriory capitals where their Assemblies are situated. The sealed ballot boxes will now be flown to New Delhi on Tuesday where they will be opened for counting on July 21.

NDA candidate Droupadi Murmu, who is pitted against the united Opposition candidate, Yashwant Sinha, is the clear favourite to win given the NDA’s comfortable numbers and a slew of other parties supporting her. President Ram Nath Kovind’s tenure comes to an end on July 24, and the new President will be sworn in on July 25.

“I want to appeal to all voters to listen to their conscience. We all know party whips are not issued and it is a secret ballot. I expect people to use their discretion and vote for me to save democracy. I hope voters will use discretion and elect me to save democracy... I’m not just fighting a political fight but a fight against government agencies too. They have become too powerful,” said Yashwant Sinha while the voting was still going on.

Polling was held between 10 am to 5 pm at 31 locations all over the country. According to the Election Commission, out of a total of 4,796 electors in the list of the Electoral College for the presidential election, over 99 per cent cast their votes. Eight MPs chose to abstain. These include two each from the BJP and the Shiv Sena, and one each from the Congress, Shiv Sena, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and AIMIM. There was 100 per cent voting by MLAs reported from 11 states and the UT of Puducherry.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the first to cast his vote followed by senior Cabinet ministers. Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman and power minister R.K. Singh cast their votes in PPE kits as they are suffering from Covid-19. The commission allowed the electors who were Covid-19 positive to cast their vote in the last hour of polling or after all non-Covid electors had cast their vote. Former Prime Minister and Congress MP Manmohan Singh arrived on a wheelchair to cast his vote at Parliament House.

There were several instances of cross-voting in the polling. “I am a Congress MLA but I have voted for NDA’s presidential candidate Droupadi Murmu. It’s my personal decision as I have listened to my heart, which guided me to do something for the soil and that’s why I voted for her,” said Odisha MLA Mohammed Moquim from the Congress.

However, Chhattisgarh Mahila Congress in-charge Danasari Anasuya cleared air on cross-voting: “Wrong speculation is being aired about my presidential election vote. If I voted for the NDA, why would I ask for another ballot before I cast my vote? There was a sketch mark on top of the ballot, not on the names, so I asked for another ballot. The EC denied it. I voted for my party candidate.”

The sole MLA of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in the Gujarat Assembly, Kandhal Jadeja, voted for BJP candidate Droupadi Murmu, a fact which he himself declared after casting his vote.

Shiromani Akali Dal MLA Manpreet Singh Ayali boycotted the presidential poll, saying issues related to Punjab remain unresolved and he was not consulted by his party leadership before deciding to back NDA candidate Droupadi Murmu.

BJP MLA from Sitamarhi Mithilesh Kumar left on a stretcher after casting his vote for the election of the President, at the Assembly in Patna.

After voting in Bhubaneshwar, Biju Janata Dal chief and Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik said: “It is an honour to cast my vote for the presidential election. It is indeed a matter of pride for our state that a daughter of Odisha, Droupadi Murmu, is a candidate for the highest office of our country. We wish her all the very best.”