Cross-voting for Kovind jolt to Cong’s idea of united opposition
BJP leader and RSS ideologue Ram Nath Kovind has been elected as next President of India with a huge over seven lakh votes. He defeated Opposition candidate and former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar who got a little over three lakh votes. She congratulated Kovind for being elected President of India. The Congress leader also sarcastically said that the responsibility to protect the Constitution falls on Kovind in this tough time.
The result of Presidential election in which the NDA candidate has registered a thumping victory has come as rude jolt to Congress’s idea of united opposition. As a matter of fact, there has been a good number of cross-voting from opposition parties in favour of Kovind. And this does not augur well for the Congress plan to cobble together a united Opposition–an idea which RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav is a strong votary for.
But Kovind getting massive votes, due also to cross-voting, will send Congress strategists to board room to have a view of what is going to happen to the plan of having a gigantic Mahagathbandhan of non-NDA parties. Congress president and RJD leader Lalu Prasad have reasons to worry about.
When Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar first came out with the idea of choosing a presidential candidate of united opposition, the Congress along with other non-NDA political parties began to put in place a grand alliance right at the time of presidential election to challenge NDA in the Lok Sabha elections of 2019. However, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar backed out of the grouping and supported the BJP candidate Kovind saying that the Congress and other parties had delayed the decision and he first supported the NDA choice.
The firs crack in the unity of opposition appeared only when Nitish announced support to the then Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind. The Congress, RJD and other like minded parties got disappointed at that particular time. But somehow, Congress and other 16 parties sat together and decided to counter what they called Dalit Card played by BJP. Therefore, the Opposition chose Meira Kumar as it candidate despite the fact the Kovind’s victory was a foregone conclusion from the day one.
The massive setback that the Congress received in the presidential election is not that its candidate Meira Kumar was defeated but it is that several of its and Opposition party legislators and MPs have voted in favour of Kovind. And this fact should worry the Congress too much.
The numbers shared by the Election Commission suggest that as many as 15 Members of Parliament – both in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha – voted against Kumar. According to the Election Commission, out of 776 MPs (543 in Lok Sabha + 233 in Rajya Sabha), 768 MPs had exercised their franchise on July 17 when polling was held. When the ballot boxes were opened today, 21 votes were declared invalid on technical grounds, thus bringing down the strength of total valid votes to 747.
The Opposition camp consisting of 17 parties had 238 MPs in its kitty in both the Houses. But what was found was that only 225 MPs voted for Kumar, including AAP and AIMIM who have 4 and one MPs each respectively in the Lok Sabha.
Similarly, cross voting has taken place in the states. Kovind got votes of 208 legislators in Maharashtra, while the total number of NDA legislators is 185 in 288-member Assembly. Likewise, Congress, NCP, AIMIM, CPI(M) and SP MLAs together have 87 votes but Meira Kumar managed to bag votes of just 49 members. The Congress alone has 42 members in the House. So there is all possibility of NCP MLAs having voted for Kovind.
Gujarat result has come out as the greatest worry for the Congress, as the state will go to polls this year end in which the grand old party is seeking to return to power after over a decade. Kovind secured support of 132 MLAs in the 182-member House in Gujarat. It means that all of Congress’ 57 MLAs did not vote for Meira Kumar as she only secured 49 votes. In Gujarat, Kovind got 132 votes (vote value 19,404) and Meira Kumar secured 49 (votes valued 7,203). Shankarsinh Vaghela faction seems to have embarrassed the Congress high command. The Congress high command will have to think whether it is going to have serious repercussions on the Rajya Sabha election.
As far as Uttar Pradesh is concerned, cross voting has happened in this state which has highest value of votes of the legislators. The NDA has 325 MLAs in the House of 402 elected members but Kovind succeeded in securing 335 votes, whereas Meira Kumar got only 65 votes against combined strength of 74 of the Congress, the SP and the BSP.
Kovind has benefited from cross voting in West Bengal also. Mamata Banerjee’s TMC, Congress and the Left together have 281 members in the 294-member Assembly. But to surprise of one and all, Meira Kumar secured only 273 votes and 10 votes were declared invalid. On the other hand, Kovind secured 11 votes despite the NDA (BJP+GJM) having only 6 members in the House.
Similarly, at least 5 votes from either the Left or the Congress were cast in the favour of Kovind in Tripura. Madhya Pradesh was also in the states where cross voting for Kovind has taken place. In 230-member Assembly, BJP has 165 MLAs while the Congress and the BSP have 56 and four members, respectively. However, Kovind got 171 votes while Meira received only 57 votes.
These statistics must have come as a rude jolt to the Congress party which along with RJD is working hard to firm up an alliance like Grand Alliance which could pose some sort of challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the general elections of 2019.