Ram Nath Kovind has been elected the next President of India. The government-backed candidate won two-third of the votes cast by an electoral college of MPs and state lawmakers. Flowers and extra security had arrived at the former Bihar governor’s home in Delhi long before the official announcement and sweets were passed around at his hometown in Uttar Pradesh. Mr Kovind, 71, will be sworn in on July 25. “It is a great responsibility, my job will be to uphold and protect the Constitution. My election to this post is a sign of the greatness of India’s democracy,” Mr Kovind said after the results showed him take an unassailable lead over Opposition candidate Meira Kumar.
Some 4,800 members of parliament and state assemblies cast votes on Monday to choose between Mr Kovind and Meira Kumar, a former speaker backed by a 17-member bloc of opposition parties.
“I congratulate Kovind ji but our fight does not end today because there are for ideologies that most Indians hold sacred,” Ms Kumar said.
Counting began at 11 am with the ballot box of Parliament House being opened first, followed by the ones received from all the states.
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.
Ram Nath Kovind is a Dalit leader and 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 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.
Mr Kovind will be the second Dalit President of India after KR Narayanan.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) broke ranks with the opposition to support for Mr 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.
Ms 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.