Reported on: July 19, 2012 09:40 AM
Reported in: International
Dhaka, July 19 (UNB) - Pranab Mukherjee has been doing his homework. He has been reading up on past Presidents. His poll managers say he should have his bags all packed to move into Rashtrapati Bhawan with almost 65 per cent of the electoral college expected to vote for him in the Presidential elections being held today.
Voting has begun in state assemblies and in Parliament House to elect the next President of India; 4896 legislators - 776 Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs and 4,120 MLAs - will vote till 5 pm today. They do not use EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines). Each of them will list their preference on a ballot paper.
The ruling UPA has worked hard to gather together the support of its allies, friends and even some opposition parties to support its candidate, Mr Mukherjee. Their pledged support adds up to that 65 per cent.
Mr Mukherjee's opponent, Purno Sangma, backed by the BJP-led NDA along with other parties, has not let his smile or confidence flag in the face of those daunting numbers. He has campaigned in the last month with as much rigour as did Mr Mukherjee.
The latter, shed of political affinity once he resigned as Finance Minister and from primary membership of the Congress party, pulled out all stops to cash in the chips that he had collected through years of being the Congress' chief troubleshooter - a job that entailed fostering the best relations with political friends and foes alike.
This contest has been one of the most closely watched Presidential elections. Dramatic political twists and turns helped the cause - not least Mamata Banerjee's last minute flourish when she declared only two days ago that her party's 50,000 votes would be cast in favour of Pranab Mukherjee after all.
Ms Banerjee made it clear that she was doing so reluctantly and that it hurt her to vote for Mr Mukherjee, both tall Bengal leaders who have not shared the best equation for years now. Mr Mukherjee will not look a gift horse in the mouth - Ms Banerjee's reluctance cannot detract from the fact that she has added a welcome 4.3 per cent to Mr Mukherjee's swelling total.
Besides the Congress and now all its allies, four supporting parties, the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Lalu Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Janata Dal (Secular) have said they will vote for Mr Mukherjee.
The expected victory is made sweeter by the support of key BJP ally the Janata Dal (United), the Shiv Sena and also two Left parties - the CPI(M) and the Forward Bloc.
To contest, Mr Sangma quit his party, the NCP, which as a UPA ally will vote for Mr Mukherjee. He has played the tribal card, suggesting that a tribal become President for the first time.
He has the support of most of the NDA, Naveen Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Jayalalithaa's AIADMK. All that support adds up to about 35 per cent of the electoral college.
For those who came in late, the electoral college is made up of all MPs and MLAs in the country - those 4896 lawmakers who are voting today. Each MLA vote has a designated value depending on which state he or she belongs to.
All MP votes have a value of 708. The total value of MP votes is 5,49,408 and the total value of all MLA votes, across India, is 5,49,474. A total 10.98 lakh votes. To win, a candidate needs 50 per cent or 5,49,442 votes if every legislator votes.
India has had 12 Presidents, Pratibha Patil is the 12th. She is also the first woman President. Rajendra Prasad became the first President of India on Jan 26, 1950.
For trivia lovers, the Rashtrapati Bhavan is the largest Presidential palace in the world. The President's official car is a custom-built heavily armoured Mercedes Benz S600 (W221) Pullman Guard. And the President earns a salary of Rs. 1.5 lakh a month.