Ram Nath Kovind to become President of India. Cross-voting hits Opposition parties
The results of the Presidential elections are out. NDA candidate and former Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind will be the 14th President of India.
Amid the jubilation in the NDA camp, the Opposition, particularly the Congress, has been jolted by cross-voting in the states, where many of its legislators have voted in favour of Kovind.
The Congress witnessed the highest cross-voting amongst those in the Opposition camp. This became evident after the Election Commission declared Kovind the winner.
“Mr Kovind has secured a clear majority... I duly declare him the President of India,” announced election officer Anoop Mishra.
Pitted against former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Kovind won with a huge margin, in a battle that had become a contest between two Dalit leaders. Kovind is the second Dalit President of India, after KR Narayanan, and also the first RSS pracharak to occupy Rashtrapati Bhavan.
The 71-year-old Kovind won 2,930 votes, as against 1,844 received by Meira Kumar. Kovind received almost two-thirds (65.35%) of the total votes polled, while Kumar received 34.35%.
Kumar congratulated Kovind on his landmark victory in a series of tweets, and urged him to uphold the Constitution in letter and spirit.
I congratulate Sh. Ram Nath Kovindji for becoming the President of India. 1/2— Meira Kumar (@meira_kumar) July 20, 2017
My best wishes are with Sh. Kovindji as it has fallen upon him to uphold the Constitution in letter & spirit in these challenging times. 2/2— Meira Kumar (@meira_kumar) July 20, 2017
Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Kovind on his win.
I also congratulate @meira_kumar Ji for her campaign, which was in spirit of the democratic ethos & values we all are proud of.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) July 20, 2017
Celebrations are also on at BJP headquarters in Delhi, where the Prime Minister and BJP president Amit Shah will meet and congratulate the President-elect.
The case of Gujarat
While Kovind's victory was a foregone conclusion, given the NDA's strength in Parliament and across state legislatures, Opposition parties received a major setback, as results proved how some of their legislators had gone against their own parties.
Congress suffered a major blow in Gujarat, where out of the 57 MLAs, only 49 voted in favour of Kumar. Even in Maharashtra and the Northeastern states, cross-voting in favour of Kovind was revealed by the results.
This should be a cause of concern for the grand old party, particularly in Gujarat, considering polls are just few months away in the state. Sources within the party have blamed the Shankarsinh Vaghela faction for causing major embarrassment to the party.
According to reports, Vaghela has been at loggerheads with the Congress high command for not naming him as the party's chief ministerial candidate. He has also been lobbying to replace of state unit president Bharatsinh Solanki, which has not been accepted by the central leadership.
In fact, Vaghela was in Delhi on Thursday and had planned to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi, but the meetings did not materialise. There was speculation that he is on the verge of resigning, and had, therefore, wanted to meet the central leadership.
Furthermore, Vaghela's meetings with Amit Shah had earlier fueled speculation of him switching over to the BJP. It was only after he met Rahul Gandhi that the matter was sorted out for the time being. Since then, he has been engaged in a bitter battle with the state faction.
Moreover, if Vaghela decides to quit with his band of supporters, it could jeopardise Congress leader Ahmed Patel's bid to return to the Rajya Sabha for a fifth term. Patel, who is also Sonia Gandhi's political secretary, is hoping to get yet another term, but it may not go his way if Vaghela quits.
Vaghela's exit will also be a major setback for the Congress's campaign in the run-up to the Assembly polls in 2018, as the party increasingly looks like a divided house in the wake of these developments.
The case of Maharashtra and Goa
Similarly, in Maharashtra, Kovind received almost two dozen extra votes than the combined tally of the BJP and its allies, suggesting cross-voting from Opposition parties.
Though it can never be known whether it was Congress or NCP legislators who cross-voted, but it serves as a reminder for the two parties about their waning influence – over not only the general public at large, but also its own legislators.
Even in Goa, Kumar received only 11 votes, despite having 16 legislators in the 38-member Assembly. Moreover, two votes were invalid, while Kovind received two additional votes. During the floor test held earlier in March this year, BJP and its allies had the support of 23 legislators.
This yet again reflects the mess the Congress is in Goa, where it failed to form the government despite emerging as the single largest party in the Assembly polls. Soon after the Assembly election results were announced in Goa, Congress's trusted partner Goa Forward Party joined hands with the BJP. Cross-voting patterns from Goa suggest that all is not well with the party unit in the coastal state, despite the high command ringing in several changes.
The case of the Northeast and Sikkim
It is well-known how Congress's popularity in the Northeast has been on a downward spiral ever since the BJP won the Lok Sabha polls in 2014.
The Presidential election reaffirmed the belief that Congress's hold on the region is waning.
Interestingly, in states like Sikkim and Tripura, where the BJP has no stakes, it has managed to convince regional parties to support its candidate.
In Sikkim, which is ruled by Pawan Chamling's Sikkim Democratic Front, Kovind secured 28 votes, while in Tripura, he received seven votes, despite having literally no presence in the state.
Even in Congress-ruled Meghalaya, Kovind has received eight votes, which should concern the grand old party.
Even in Uttar Pradesh, Kovind received 10 more votes than the BJP and its allies' tally. It is speculated that cross-voting could have been done by the Shivpal Yadav faction of the Samajwadi Party.
Another alarming revelation of the result were the 77 votes that were deemed as 'invalid', with the maximum number of 21 being reported from Parliament. One cannot help but wonder if most of these votes were intentionally made invalid.
Interestingly, the highest number of invalid votes, barring Parliament, came from West Bengal and Delhi, which should be a cause of concern for the leaders of both states, Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal.
The two CMs have waged a battle against the Modi government, and this could be a sign of how the BJP could surreptitiously be working behind the scenes to create divisions within their respective parties.
What happens to Oppn unity?
The voting pattern serves as a reminder for the Opposition parties that they will have to do much more than hold luncheon meetings.
The pattern reflects how the Opposition parties, especially the Congress, needs to take control of its own leaders and cadres, if it is really serious about stopping the Modi juggernaut. Else, the results of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections will be no different.