Former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee won a highly politicised presidential election as the UPA’s candidate with a landslide margin on Sunday, capping a long political career that saw him serve with three prime ministers.
Mukherjee, who polled 69.3% of the total value of valid votes, defeated Purno Agitok Sangma, a veteran parliamentarian backed by the main opposition party BJP and some key regional parties, such as the BJD and AIADMK.
Mukherjee, who will be sworn in on July 25, is set to be India’s 13th head of state, but will assume the 14th presidential office since Rajendra Prasad served two consecutive terms. Mukherjee replaces Pratibha Patil, India’s first woman President.
Even before the counting had officially closed, Mukherjee made a public appearance at his 13 Talkatora Road home to address a huge crowd of supporters.
“I thank the great people of this country for conferring on me this distinction. I will protect, defend and preserve the Constitution,” he said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and general secretary Rahul Gandhi were among the early visitors at Mukherjee's residence to congratulate him.
It was an easy win for Mukherjee, having crossed the half-way mark of 5,14,876 in vote value (from the total value of 10,29,750 of valid votes in the electoral college) even as votes from 10 states were yet to be counted.
The results revealed cross-voting in Mukherjee’s favour in the BJP-ruled states of Karnataka, Jharkhand and Gujarat by the party's legislators.
Mukherjee got a total vote value of 7,13,555 while Sangma secured 3,16,195 in total vote value, said Rajya Sabha secretary-general VK Agnihotri, the designated returning officer for the poll.
Among the 748 MPs who voted, Mukherjee secured 527 votes with a value of 3,73,116 against 206 for Sangma, which has a value of 1,45,848. Fifteen votes including that of Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav were invalid.
Mukherjee entered public life as a 34-year-old from Bengal’s Birbhum in 1969, when he was nominated to Rajya Sabha. His bid to become president had run into a controversy, with the Opposition accusing him of not resigning in time from an office of profit, the Kolkata-based Indian Statistical Institute. The charge was rejected by the returning officer.