By Nishalika Shrivastava
Bihar has hogged the limelight in the 2017 presidential election, as both candidates in the race have links with the state (also see:- http://www.jagritbihar.com/2017/06/20/bihar-hogs-limelight-ensuing-presidential-elections/). The BJP- led National Democratic Alliance’s nominee, Ram Nath Kovind was state’s Governor till his name was announced as the Presidential candidate. He is pitted against Congress-led Opposition’ s candidate and former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, who hails from Bihar. Both candidates are Dalits.
In the state, in all 242 of the total 243 legislators voted to elect the next President of the country. Of them, Birendra Kumar Sinha, MLA from Obra, voted in Dehradun (away for some personal reason) after seeking special permission from the Election Commission. The Rashtriya Janata Dal legislator Rajballabh Yadav, lodged in Biharsharif jail, too cast his vote with permission from court.
The lone legislator who could not cast his vote was BJP’s Anand Bhushan Pandey, a Member of Legislative Assembly from Bhabhua, since he suffers from multi-organ failure and is hospitalised in Delhi.
The voting took place at the two voting compartments made at the State Assembly`s library in Patna, between 10 AM and 5 PM on Monday, 17 July 2017. Once the voting was over, Assembly Secretary Ram Shreshth Rai personally carried the ballot boxes to Delhi by an 8.55pm flight. The result will be announced on 20 July 2017, when India gets its 14th President, who will succeed incumbent Pranab Mukherjee.
In Patna, many leaders including the Leader of the Opposition in Bihar Vidhan Sabha, Bharatiya Janata Party’s Dr. Prem Kumar, as well as state Water Resources minister Rajiv Ranjan Singh and Parliamentary Affairs minister Shravan Kumar, both of the JD (U), had reached the venue well ahead of time. BJP legislator Sanjay Saraogi was the first to cast his vote while CPI (ML) (Liberation) legislator from Gopalganj Satyadeo Ram was the last MLA to cast his vote.
Kovind, who is largely tipped to be the next President given favourable poll arithmetic, has also garnered formal support from Janata Dal (United) in the state as evident from the formal announcement made by K C Tyagi, National Spokesperson of the JD(U). The latter stated that “we had discussions with party MLAs and it was decided to support Kovind. The MLAs were of the opinion that Kovind is a good man and had a non-controversial stint as Governor of Bihar”.
This though, has come as a setback for JD(U)’s alliance partners in state’s coalition government, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress that are supporting opposition’s nominee Meira Kumar. Already JD(U)’s relationship with the RJD has hit a low following the corruption charges against RJD supremo Lalu Yadav and his family members, which has made speculations rife over the breaking up of the alliance.
Each Bihar MLA’s vote is valued at 173. Given that JD(U)’s 71 MLAs as well as 4 Independent MLAs have likely voted in favour of Kovind along with the BJP’s 52 MLAs and and 5 MLAs of the latter’s allies – the Lok Janshakti Party, Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, the vote share for Kovind in Bihar rose to 132, or 64.3% of the strength of the House. Thus, the representative value of the votes in favour of Kovind in Bihar is likely to worth 22,836 which is far ahead of Meira’s expected worth of 19,030 (as RJD’s 80 MLAs, Congress’ 27 and CPI (ML)’s 3 MLAs voted for Meira, though some unverified reports suggest cross voting by 5 RJD and 3 Congress MLAs).
This Presidential election has seen an unprecedented 99% voting from a total of 4,896 voters that include 4,120 MLAs and 776 elected MPs. Anoop Mishra, Returning Officer for the presidential election and Lok Sabha Secretary General said at a press conference in New Delhi that “the voting was close to 99%. I think this would perhaps be the highest ever percentage”.