NEW DELHI: Ram Nath Kovind, lawyer, former MP and governor, was elected India’s next President on Thursday. The government-backed candidate, a Dalit leader, won nearly 66 per cent of the votes cast by an electoral college of MPs and state lawmakers on Monday. He will be sworn in on July 25. “I realise it is a great responsibility,” the 71-year-old said at his home in Delhi, where a crowd burst crackers and distributed sweets in celebration. Though he won by a huge margin, his rival Meira Kumar scored the second highest value of votes for an opposition candidate.
Here is your 10-point cheat-sheet to this story:
- “Mr Kovind has secured a clear majority… I duly declare him as the President of India,” said election officer Anoop Mishra. Mr Kovind won the 2,930 votes with a value of 7,02,044 and Ms Kumar managed 1,844 votes with a value of 3,67,314.
- The counting of votes revealed that cross-voting took place in states like Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Goa and Bengal. Votes from nearly 5,000 lawmakers in parliament and state assemblies were counted in parliament to elect the constitutional head.
- Mr Kovind will be the second Dalit President of India after KR Narayanan. His humble background and simplicity were underscored repeatedly by the BJP over the weeks before the presidential vote.
- Mr Kovind served a reminder in his speech after winning the election. Referring to the daylong rain in Delhi, he shared memories of a kuchcha mud hut and waiting for the rain to end. “Today there are many Ram Nath Kovinds who are getting wet in the rain, working hard in the fields for one square meal,” he said.
- Ms Kumar, a former speaker backed by a 17-member bloc of opposition parties, said she was not upset. “We have fought a principled fight… we are fighting for values that most people of the country believe in,” she said.
- Mr Kovind, who resigned as Bihar Governor the day his name was announced for the presidential race, has been a BJP MP and is deeply associated with the party’s ideological mentor RSS or Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
- PM Modi’s choice of Mr Kovind was seen as a masterstroke to divide the opposition and keep allies together as well as a move to consolidate its growing support among politically vital backward castes.
- Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) broke ranks with the opposition to support Mr Kovind in a big blow to the opposition, which had picked the Presidential elections as an occasion to forge an anti-BJP bloc ahead of the 2019 general elections.
- The presidential poll on Monday saw nearly 99 per cent voting, the highest ever, according to returning officer said. Polling was held simultaneously at 32 polling stations — one in Parliament House and one each in 29 state assemblies and two union territories with assemblies.
- The Constitution provides a largely ceremonial role for the President, with the Prime Minister and his cabinet colleagues holding executive power. But the President has a key role during political crises, such as when a general election is inconclusive, by deciding which party is in the best position to form a government