Ram Raj at Raisina, Kovind elected President

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Second Dalit to enter Rashtrapati Bhavan after 20 years

Sonia, Rahul, others congratulate President-elect Kovind

New Delhi, July 20 (IANS) Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday congratulated Ram Nath Kovind on being elected the President of India and reminded him that the President has been entrusted with the task of upholding the Constitution of India.

“The President of India enjoys a unique position as defender and protector of the Constitution, upholder of democratic traditions and as supreme commander of the Indian armed forces,” Sonia Gandhi said.

“The President is the conscience-keeper of the Constitution of India,” she added.

Rahul Gandhi said: “Congratulations Ram Nath Kovindji. Wishing you a great term as the President of India.”

Karnataka Chief Minister and Congress leader Siddaramaiah also congratulated Kovind on his victory.

“Under your stewardship, let there be a bright future for India, with equal opportunities to all the people across the country,” Siddaramaiah said in a congratulatory message to President-elect Kovind.

The ruling Congress lawmakers in Karnataka had voted for Opposition candidate Meira Kumar, while legislators of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party voted for Kovind.

Congratulating Kovind, Congress MP Sushmita Dev said: “We hope that this battle will be remembered by the nation as a battle that stood for pluralism, inclusiveness, for upholding the principles of democracy.”

“This is the beginning of many diverse political parties with different political ideologies coming together to stand with the Constitution, to stand for the values and the principles that our Constitution stands for.

“I hope that President-elect, who will take over in next few days, will truly act as the protector of the Constitution and will defend this nation and defend the people against any attack on democracy, fundamental rights and everything that our Constitution stands for,” she added.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said: “The Congress looks forward to working with Kovind for upholding the principles of democracy and for continuously showing the mirror of truth to a government arrogating on account of numbers alone.”

On the question of cross-voting, he told the media: “I think if you examine the results more minutely, we are happy that the presidential candidate Meira Kumar holds close to 35% votes.”

“Opposition unity has stayed intact while a government which was drunk with numbers and a union minister who was also the agent of the winning candidate claimed that they will poll 70 per cent votes or more,” he added.

As many as 11 Gujarat Congress legislators on Thursday were learnt to have cast their votes in favour of NDA’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind, and not for the official Congress-led opposition presidential candidate Meira Kumar.

This was revealed during counting of votes for the Presidential election when it was found that of 181 votes polled, Kovind secured 132 votes and Meira Kumar 49 votes.

Congress has 57 MLAs in the 182-seat Gujarat Assembly, the ruling BJP 122, Nationalist Congress Party two and Janata Dal-United has one legislator. The JD-U legislator had abstained from voting.

The NCP had backed Meira Kumar. BJP rebel legislator Nalin Kotadiya claimed he did not vote for the NDA candidate. If these three votes are considered to have been cast in favour of Meira Kumar, the number of Congress legislators who voted against their official candidate would be 11.

“We do not have sufficient information on this as yet but we will look into it and act accordingly,” state Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki told mediapersons in Ahmedabad.

The cross-voting has only added to the woes of the Gujarat Congress, given that senior party leader Shankersinh Vaghela who has been miffed with the high command for not handing him over the reins of the December electoral battle, has already announced a public gathering of his supporters and legislators on his 77th birthday on Friday, which he normally does not celebrate.

Unlike in several other states, cross-voting in the presidential election seems to have gone against National Democratic Alliance (NDA) presidential nominee Ram Nath Kovind in Rajasthan.

Kovind secured 166 votes from the state in the presidential poll, results of which were declared on Thursday, while opposition-backed Congress candidate Meira Kumar got 34 votes.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has 161 MLAs in the 200-member assembly and the number of Congress legislators is 24.

The BJP was sure of securing 171 votes, which included 161 of its own party, four of Independents, four of National People’s Party and two of National Unionist Zamindara Party.

The Congress, on the other hand, was banking on 29 votes, which included 24 of its own, two Bahujan Samaj Party’s and three of Independents.

However, opposition-supported Kumar bagged 34 votes, which shows that five of the votes that the BJP was claiming to be of theirs have gone to the Congress candidate.

“It clearly shows cross-voting and dissatisfaction against the BJP leadership in the state,” Sachin Pilot, the state Congress president said in a statement.

“It seems that listening to inner voice, some of the BJP MLAs have voted for the Congress candidate. It clearly shows there is division and frustration in the BJP Legislature Party,” Rameshwar Dudi, Leader of Opposition and Congress leader said.

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