Counting Started, Ram Nath Kovind Set To Become As Next President

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New Delhi:  Ram Nath Kovind, former Bihar Governor, is set to be India's next President as votes are being counted today in the presidential election held on Monday. Mr Kovind, nominated by the ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance is expected to get almost 70 per cent of the votes for an easy win over the opposition's candidate Meira Kumar, a former Lok Sabha Speaker.

Counting of votes began at 11 am at the Parliament House. Ballot boxes, collected from all the states across India, have been locked  inside the House. The final result was expected by 5 pm that would decide the successor of President Pranab Mukherjee, who demits office on July 25.

The votes will be counted on four separate tables and there would be eight rounds of counting, an Election Commission official said. Counting will be held under the supervision of the Lok Sabha secretary general Anoop Mishra, who is also the Returning Officer.

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.

A total of 4,895 voters -- 4,120 MLAs and 776 elected MPs -- were eligible to vote. Madhya Pradesh Minister Narottam Mishra did not cast his vote as he was disqualified by the poll body over the allegations of "paid news".

While the value of a legislator's vote depends on the population of the state he or she belongs to, the value of a Member of Parliament's vote remains the same at 708.

Ram Nath Kovind, 71, is a farmer's son and his humble origins and simple lifestyle were stressed by BJP leaders. The former Bihar Governor has served two terms as a member of the Rajya Sabha. He is a trained lawyer who has appeared at the High Court and Supreme Court.

PM Modi's choice of Mr Kovind, a Dalit candidate, 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. If elected, Ram Nath Kovind will be the second Dalit President of India after KR Narayanan.

Pitching the contest as a battle of ideologies, a 17-member bloc of opposition parties had announced Meira Kumar's candidacy days after Mr Kovind's nomination. "We have fought a principled fight... we are fighting for values that most people of the country believe in," Ms Kumar said this morning.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) broke ranks with the opposition to support for Ram Nath Kovind and the BJP's partner Shiv Sena, which has in the last two Presidential elections voted against its own alliance, too has supported Mr Kovind.  

Mr Kumar's support to Mr Kovind came as 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.


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