Former Jharkhand Governor and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) candidate Droupadi Murmu was elected the 15th President of India, the first tribal woman to be elected to the position and the youngest as well. She was declared elected on Thursday after four rounds of counting, although she had crossed the halfway mark after the third round of counting itself, posting an unassailable lead over her rival and the Opposition’s candidate Yashwant Sinha, who conceded the election thereafter.
After four rounds of polling, Ms. Murmu received 2,824 votes of 6,76,803 value while Mr. Sinha received 1,877 votes or 3,80,177 value. She received 64.03% of total valid votes polled, much more than what was openly declared in her support and pointing to the fact there had been a lot of cross-voting in Ms. Murmu's favour from the Opposition ranks.
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"In my capacity as Returning Officer duly declare that Smt. Droupadi Murmu has been duly elected as President of India," said P.C. Mody, Secretary General of the Rajya Sabha, who was the designated Returning Officer for the polls.
‘India scripts victory’
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the first to greet Ms. Murmu at her residence in New Delhi after the third round of counting showed that she had crossed the half-way mark. “India scripts history. At a time when 1.3 billion Indians are marking Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, a daughter of India hailing from a tribal community born in a remote part of eastern India has been elected our President!” tweeted Mr. Modi, adding that “Smt Droupadi Murmu’s life, her early struggles, her rich service and her exemplary success motivates each and every Indian. She has emerged as a ray of hope for our citizens especially the poor, marginalised and the downtrodden.”
Ms. Murmu, who had been a former Governor of Jharkhand, hails from the Santhal tribe and was born in the district of Mayurbhanj, coming up the hard way in life, graduating and teaching in Odisha before entering electoral politics at the local body level and later being elected MLA and serving as a Minister in the Biju Janata Dal-BJP coalition government from 2000 to 2004. She remained an MLA till 2009, representing Rairangpur in Odisha, a town that burst into celebrations since her name was announced as a candidate for the post of President of India. She holds the record of being the only Governor of Jharkhand till date to complete a full tenure, and was known to intervene in stopping amendments to the Chota Nagpur Tenancy Act that was being brought in by the BJP government of Raghubar Das, which involved changing land use in tribal areas.
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Congratulatory messages poured out as her victory was assured, with Union Ministers Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah and BJP president J.P. Nadda also going in person to greet Ms. Murmu. Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla said Ms. Murmu “has always given voice to the hopes and aspirations of the people, understood their grievances and resolved them.”
Assam CM’s tweet
Ms. Murmu’s lead was substantial from the first round itself when votes of all MPs were counted , but by the third round, her unassailable lead had made it quite clear that there had been much cross-voting in her favour across party lines. Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma in fact tweeted that in Assam, as many as 22 non-NDA MLAs had voted in favour of Ms. Murmu. “Smt Droupadi Murmu polled 104 votes compared to NDA’s original strength of 79 in the 126-member Assam Assembly. 2 Absent. My heartfelt gratitude to the people of Assam for reposing their faith in the NDA’s presidential candidate and wholeheartedly joining this historic moment,” he said.
Election managers for the ruling coalition tracking the counting said that as many as 17 MPs and 126 MLAs had voted across party lines for Ms. Murmu. Apart from the 22 MLAs in Assam, the NDA claimed that Bihar saw six MLAs cross-vote, Gujarat saw 10, Jharkhand — where the ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha had anyway officially broken ranks with the Opposition to support Ms. Murmu’s candidature — also saw 10 opposition MLAs vote in favour of her. Madhya Pradesh saw 19 MLAs cross-vote, while 16 did so in Maharashtra. While there is no whip issued for the Presidential polls, the declared parties and coalitions declare candidates who expect votes to fall on party lines.
The massive cross-voting showed a larger scatter in the Opposition ranks over these polls, which had also seen a steady depletion in its ranks since the candidature of Ms. Murmu was announced.