With UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee virtually set to become the 14th President of India, the drama surrounding his candidature and his winnability took many twists and turns.
President poll ballot box. Jayanto
After the July 19 election, however, the fate of the two hopefuls – the other candidate being former Lok Sabha speaker PA Sangma – was sealed and locked in the ballot boxes.
Not surprising then that the very boxes were accorded the most deferential treatment as they were ferried from different states to Delhi where the counting and declaration of results would take place on Sunday.
On Friday, the box carrying Bihar MLAs’ votes was booked in the name of Presidential Ballot Box on Air India flight AI 410.
What's more, it travelled executive class accompanied by its two minders, secretary in-charge of the Bihar legislative assembly and assistant returning office (ARO) Laxmi Kant Jha and another ARO, Hareram Mukhiya.
The Election Commission of India (ECI), which issued guidelines that under no circumstance the ballot box bearing the votes polled was to be taken to New Delhi as a 'checked-in baggage', had booked the three seats, costing Rs. 20,072 each, in advance.
Rather, there was a clear directive that it should be carried only as hand luggage on a separate seat adjacent to the officers carrying it.
Observer for the presidential election IAS officer AK Bhalla, however, travelled business class on the same flight.
The officers were also instructed to carry their personal belongings in hand luggage. The idea, sources said, was to avoid waiting at the conveyor belt at the airport.
Once in Delhi, the Rajya Sabha secretary general took over the arrangements for the safe travel of the ballot boxes from the airport to Parliament House.
With the votes finally boxed-in, what remains is the formality of the announcement of Mukherjee's ascent to Raisina Hill.