New Delhi: An electorate consisting of 4,120 MLAs and 776 MPs voted on Monday to elect the 14th president of India, as Pranab Mukherjee's term as country's first citizen is inching towards its end.
The contest is between former Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind and former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, with the scales tipped towards Kovind. Along with the JD(U), NDA has completely backed Kovind while 17 Opposition parties have backed Meira Kumar.
Since both the candidates are Dalit, the poll has been dubbed as a 'Dalit vs Dalit' contest, triggering the Congress to term it as a clash of ideologies.
A total of 32 polling stations - one in Parliament House and one each in the state legislative assemblies - have been set up, officials said.
The Election Commission (EC) has appointed 33 observers who are overseeing the conduct of the election. While two observers are present in Parliament House, one each is deployed in the respective state assemblies.
The ballot paper will be in two colours - Green color Ballot for use by MPs and Pink color for use by MLAs.
The ballot paper will have two columns - first column containing candidates' names and second column for marking preferences by electors.
The ballot paper will be in English and Hindi for use by MPs and in official languages of the state and in English for use by MLAs.
The result will be declared on July 20 in New Delhi.
03:10 pm: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, "It's vote against injustice. For sake of country we urge everyone to not support BJP & stand beside people."
She said, "We voted for Meira Kumar in Presidential poll to register our protest against 'present atrocities' in the country."
03:05 pm: Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah voiced hope that parties facing the BJP in the states will revisit their decision to vote for NDA pick Ram Nath Kovind "considering the situation" in the country.
"There is hope that those parties, which have till now opposed the BJP and will be the target of the party in the coming state elections, might change their decision (to support Kovind) at the last moment considering the situation in the country," Omar told reporters after casting his vote at Jammu and Kashmir assembly.
"As far as the numbers are concerned, it seems the NDA has an advantage in the electoral college, but in a secret ballot you cannot show your vote to anyone," he said.
02:30 pm: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, his Haryana counterpart Manohar Lal Khattar and senior Akali leader Parkash Singh Badal cast
their votes for the presidential poll in Haryana.
02:15 pm: Voting to elect the next President of India concluded in the Rajasthan Assembly, with 199 legislators out of 200 exercising their franchise.
Former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot cast his vote in Gujarat.
02:14 pm: 100 per cent polling recorded in voting for Presidential Poll in Himachal with all 67 MLAs casting their vote.
02:06 pm: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis casts his vote in Maharashtra Legislative Assembly.
01:30 pm: By voting for Ram Nath Kovind, we've registered our protest against crimes of CPI(M), Congress & TMC: Ashish Saha, who quit TMC earlier this year.
1:20 pm: Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar cast his vote in the first one hour. Goa Forward Party's Jayesh Salgaoncar and Vinod Palyekar, Congress' Philip Neri Rodrigues, Ravi Naik, Digambar Kamat and Tony Fernandes, and BJP's Pramod Sawant and Pravin Zantye were among the early voters.
1:15 pm: The impact of the Darjeeling unrest was seen during voting in West Bengal with a heated exchange between TMC MLA Paresh Pal and GJM MLAs. Pal lashed out at three GJM MLA’s saying they have set the hills on fire, according to reports.
He also claimed that West Bengal BJP President Dilip Ghosh was the reason behind the unrest, a war of words between them.
1:13 pm: Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has cast his vote.
12:30 pm: Opposition candidate Meira Kumar speaks to media, says, "I have requested the members of the collegiums to pay heed to their conscience, because there is nothing purer and more powerful than that. They should consider it in the best interest and the future of the country".
The former Lok Sabha speaker, Meira Kumar said, the ideology of “social justice, inclusiveness, secularism, transparency, freedom of expression and press, poverty alleviation and total destruction of caste system” binds India together. It is very important that “we protect and preserve it”.
11:44 am: Nationalist Congress Party's (NCP) leader Praful Patel said all NCP MPs and MLAs have voted for Meira Kumar.
11:37 am: Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said the fight between Kovind and Kumar was "one of ideologies" and rated the latter as the best choice for the president's post.
"The president should be a person pursuing an ideology under which everybody should be equal for him. And when there is a clash of ideologies, I think our candidate (Kumar) is the best," Azad, the Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, said.
11:30 am: Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati expressed satisfaction that a Dalit leader would occupy the office of the president irrespective of who won the poll.
Mayawati also claimed it was because of her party that the NDA and the opposition had to field candidates from the community.
"Winning or losing (a poll) is a different issue. Whoever wins, the good thing is a Scheduled Caste person will be the country's president. And I think it is a good thing for our movement, the party.
"And the NDA, the BJP had to field a Dalit candidate for the presidential poll because of the BSP and the other side (the opposition) too," she told reporters outside Parliament.
11:28 am: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik casts vote for the next president at the state Assembly.
10:59 am: Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan arrives at MP Assembly to cast his vote.
10:50 am: Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal cast his vote at the state Assembly.
10:40 am: Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Kovind will register a "decisive victory" and would turn out as an "honest" president, who, he said, will work hard according to the Constitution.
"It would have been better if there was consensus (among all parties over Kovind's nomination). But no issues," he said.
10:35 am: DMK working president MK Stalin casts his vote at Tamil Nadu Assembly.
10:30 am: Jailed MLAs Chhagan Bhujbal and Ramesh Kadam will be brought to Maharashtra Legislative Assembly from prison for voting.
10:30 am: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu casts his vote in the state Assembly.
10:25 am: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath casts his vote in the state Assembly in Lucknow. "This is matter of pride for the people of Uttar Pradesh, the the son of the state is going to become the President", he said.
Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya and Union Minister Uma Bharti also cast their vote at Tilak hall, Lucknow.
10:20 am: Modi, Amit Shah cast their votes at the Parliament.
10:00 am: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister is the first person to cast his vote from state assembly premises in Chennai.
09:45 am: Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah arrive at Parliament.
09:25 am: "Kovind ji will win (the election) with a respectable and comfortable margin," Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu told reporters ahead of the polling.
09:15 am: CPI(M) urged voters, comprising MPs and MLAs, to pick the "custodian of the Constitution" thoughtfully.
"Hope the electoral college picks the custodian of India's Constitution thoughtfully....Vote to uphold constitutional values of our republic," party general secretary Sitaram Yechury said on Twitter.
Hope the Electoral College picks the custodian of India's Constitution thoughtfully: Vote to uphold Constitutional Values of our Republic.— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) July 17, 2017
Narendra Modi had congratulated NDA presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind a day earlier, and assured him of his government’s support.
At a meeting of the NDA MPs which was also attended by Kovind, Modi recalled that the former Bihar governor had worked as a 'sahyogi' (aide) of Morarji Desai when he was the prime minister and said this government will offer all 'sahyog' (cooperation) to him.
Kovind's win against opposition candidate Meira Kumar is a foregone conclusion as the ruling coalition has secured the support of nearly two-thirds of the electoral college, with some political parties even outside the NDA fold throwing their weight behind him.
Quoting Modi, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said the prime minister also offered his congratulations in advance to the Dalit leader.
Kumar also made light of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi's call to MPs and MLAs for "vote of conscience", saying 40 political parties have supported Kovind's presidential bid and non-NDA chief ministers of states like Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Odisha have also announced their support for him.
"The way ahead is very clear," he said, underlining the clear majority enjoyed by the NDA candidate. On the occasion, BJP MP Bhupender Yadav made a presentation to the MPs about the voting process to ensure that they vote correctly.
Modi highlighted that the campaigns by the two presidential candidates and parties supporting them had been very dignified and showed the maturity of the Indian democracy.
During the meeting, he also noted that 75th anniversary of the Quit India movement falls on August 9 and told the MPs that country-wide events should be held between August 9 and 15, to mark the occasion.
He pitched for discussions and programmes for five years till 15 August 2022, the 75th Independence Day, aimed at pro-poor programmes and a good governance agenda.
The prime minister, Kumar told reporters, also noted that the advent of the year 2018 will mark the enrolment of "new millennial voters", those born in 2000 and after, and said they should be welcomed and made aware of their responsibilities.
Besides Kumar, BJP chief Amit Shah and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley addressed the MPs.