In a quieter replay of the presidential election, the UPA-Left on Friday had their candidate Mohammad Hamid Ansari elected as vice-president through a margin higher than the aggregate vote bank of the ruling combine in the two Houses of Parliament.
The UPA-Left had 441 committed votes but the former diplomat romped home with 455 of the 762 votes polled. BJP-led NDA candidate Najma Heptullah was a distant second with 222, while the Third Front’s Rashid Masood secured only 75 votes. There were 10 invalid votes.
“I am aware of the responsibilities of the post. I will endeavour to fulfil these responsibilities to the satisfaction of all,” Ansari told newspersons on being delivered the notification of his election. Ansari will be administered the oath of office by President Pratibha Patil on Saturday. He will take charge as Rajya Sabha chairman on Monday.
<b1>Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi were among the first to congratulate Ansari at his makeshift 11 South Avenue residence. Singh saw Ansari’s victory as a triumph of “merit, and secular values”. Sonia Gandhi described as “a good victory and different from the tense electioneering of the presidential elections.”
Ansari’s election was a foregone conclusion. But his campaign managers, led by Parliamentary Affairs Minister PR Dasmunsi, helped him secure a margin overtaking the lead of 154 that Bhairon Singh Shekhawat had got in the 2002 vice presidential election. In fact, Heptualla’s tally was 10 less than what Shekhawat had got from MPs during last month’s presidential polls.
Cross-voting took place in a big way in the election in which the winning target was 377 after discounting the 21 MPs who did not vote and the 10 whose votes were invalidated. The four members of the Trinamool Congress are among those suspected to have cross-voted for Ansari. Ansari’s victory margin would have been higher but for the fact that five UPA-Left MPs could not come. Among them were the Congress’ Govinda, who was reportedly ticked off by the party’s central leadership for playing truant. His conduct stood in contrast to that of Priya Dutt, who came to vote despite her preoccupation with brother Sanjay Dutt’s efforts to secure bail.
Other notable absentees included BJP’s former chief Jana Krishnamurthy, filmstars Dharmendra and Dara Singh, and Congressman-turned-saffronite Laxman Singh. Among those who voted were four jailed MPs — Shahabuddin, Pappu Yadav, Afzal Ansari and Babubhai Katara.
(With inputs from Sutirtho Patranobhis)