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Pratibha becomes India's first woman president

The UPA-Left nominee strolls into Rashtrapati Bhawan after a thumping victory, report Saroj Nagi & Srinand Jha.
Hindustan Times | By Saroj Nagi and Srinand Jha, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 22, 2007 12:39 PM IST

UPA-Left nominee Pratibha Patil has created history by becoming the first woman to be elected to the Rashtrapati Bhawan. She defeated BJP-backed independent nominee, Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat by over 3.06 lakh votes in an unusually bitter election that also witnessed some cross voting from the Opposition BJP-NDA.

Patil got 65.82 per cent of valid votes in comparison to 34.18 per cent polled by Shekhawat, who becomes the only sitting Vice President to have lost a presidential election. He also drew a blank in four states: Mizoram, and the Left bastions of Kerala, Tripura and West Bengal.

Immediately after the results for the 13th presidential elections were announced on Saturday by Returning Officer PDT Achary, Shekhawat resigned as Vice-President, accepting his defeat with “all humility’’.

In her first interaction with the media, the new President saw her victory as the triumph of “just principles and values.’’ She said: “I am grateful to the people of the country for extending support to me.’’

Women power

Pratibha Patil is in a select club of women who are in charge...

Queen of United Kingdom, Elizabeth II
One of the longest-reigning monarchs of the UK.

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany
She is the first woman to lead modern Germany since 1871.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Phillipines’ President
She is nation’s second female president after Corazon Aquino.

Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile
Surgeon and epidemiologist, served as Health Minister.

Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand
In 2006, she was ranked as 20th most powerful woman in the world.

Michaëlle Jean, Governor General, Canada
Daughter of Haitian immigrants, appointed by Queen Elizabeth II.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia
Often referred to as the “Iron Lady.”

Micheline Calmy-Rey, President of Switerzland
Member of the Swiss Federal Council since 2003.

Queen of Netherlands, HM Beatrix
She has been the queen since 1980.

Dalia Itzik, Acting President of Israel
This Iraqi born Israeli politician is serving as the President of Israel since January 25, 2007.

Tarja Halonen, President of Finland
Often compared to “Moominmamma”, a mother-figure from a comic strip.

Mary McAleese, President of Ireland
Elected president in 1997.

After Achary handed to Patil the certificate declaring her elected as President, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi visited her at her make-shift 11 South Avenue residence and congratulated her. Singh saw her election as a “victory of the forces of unity and secularism against the divisive forces.’’

Sonia expressed gratitude to her UPA allies for helping elect the first woman president of independent India. Quipped External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee: “The BJP’s call for a conscience vote has gone against it.’’

Besides launching an all-out attack on Patil over nepotism and financial irregularities in her management of the cooperative bank, sugar mill and educational institutions she set up, the BJP conducted a high pitched campaign calling for a conscience vote and demanded that she, like Shekhawat, declare her assets and liabilities.

The campaign did not evidently pay off. Patil made a dent even in Opposition-ruled states like Nagaland, Bihar, MP and Mizoram. She also managed some cross-voting in Chhattisgarh and Gujarat and got extra votes in states like Delhi, Karnataka and Rajasthan. But in Punjab, there were three votes less than what that the Congress has in the assembly.

“We have made a substantial dent in Bihar and Gujarat. Even in MP, some BJP MLAs ignored Leader of Opposition LK Advani’s call for a conscience vote. The government, the BJP claims as its own in Nagaland, did not back Shekhawat and we got 45 votes,” said Parliamentary Affairs Minister PR Dasmunsi. Patil also scored impressively in her home state, Maharashtra where the Shiv Sena supported her by breaking ranks with the BJP. She got 223 of the 281 votes polled while Shekhawat got 58.

In his home state, Shekhawat appeared to have got the votes of four INLD MLAs who defied their party’s decision to abstain. The other state where he faired better than expectations was Tamil Nadu with 58 votes, including those of the AIADMK and MDMK and “probably” actor Vijaykant.

Earlier Presidents

RajendraPrasad (1952-1957)

RajendraPrasad: second term (1957-1962)

SarvapalliRadhakrishnan (1962-1967)

ZakirHussain (1967-1969)

VV Giri (1969-1974)

Fakruddin Ali Ahmed (1974-1977)

NeelamSanjeeva Reddy (1977-1982)

Zail Singh (1982-1987)

R Venkataraman (1987-1992)

ShankarDayal Sharma (1992-1997)

KR Narayanan (1997-2002)

APJ Abdul Kalam (2002-2007)

An air of excitement prevailed in the Congress camp whose main concern was not about her victory but her margin. There was no official announcement of the outcome after each state was taken up for counting in alphabetical order — with Parliament votes taken up right at the end.

The mood in the BJP camp was sombre. Former MP Satpal Jain came to brief once but did not show up thereafter. Shekhawat’s spokesperson, Sushma Swaraj and S.S. Ahluwalia spent time in Central Hall while his staff at his Maulana Azad Road residence calculated the value of votes he polled.

It took more than six hours to count a total of 4,472 votes. Of these 4,394 were valid and had a vote value of 9,69,422. The benchmark for winning the election was set at 4,84,4712 votes. Patil got 6,38,116 while Shekhawat could muster only 3,31,306. In the proportional representation system, while MPs have uniform value of 708 for each vote, the value of an MLA’s vote differs from state to state.

(Withinputs from Anil Anand)

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