Presidential election: Cross-voting for Murmu cracks opposition unity

As counting of votes for the presidential election ended on Thursday, it became clear that NDA candidate Draupadi Murmu’s spectacular victory was also aided by some cross-voting. It was also evidence of division and confusion in the opposition to thwart the bid of the first indigenous woman to occupy the country’s highest office.

The ruling BJP claimed that 17 MPs from both houses of Parliament and 126 MLAs from states defied their respective party lines and voted for Murmu. Many regional parties, despite their political objections to the BJP, have indicated their willingness to see Murmu in the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

He polled 2824 out of a total of 4701 valid votes, leaving only 1877 votes for the opposition’s Yashwant Sinha.

Murmu received 64.03 percent of the total valid votes cast, lower than what outgoing President Ram Nath Kovind got in 2017 – 65.65 percent of the total votes cast. But the divisions and bitterness were only three years into the Modi government’s first term.

According to BJP leaders, 10 MLAs in Gujarat, 22 in Assam, 12 in Uttar Pradesh and 4 in Goa cross voted for Murmu. Details will be available only after a thorough assessment of state-wise voting patterns.

Since Sinha did not get the expected votes, there are question marks over the unity of the opposition. But leaders of opposition parties pointed out that many of them had no choice but to stand with Murmu to protect their tribal support base.

Murmu won the support of the entire house in Andhra Pradesh, Nagaland and Sikkim as Sinha got a blank in these states. He even managed a bypoll from Kerala, a state where the BJP could not win a single seat in the Assembly or Lok Sabha elections.

In Telangana, a state where the BJP hopes to emerge as an alternative, the NDA candidate managed only 3 votes while Sinha got 113 votes.

The number of invalid votes also fell from 77 in 2017 to 53 in this election.

During the counting, BJP leaders claimed that Murmu would win the election with around 70 per cent votes in the electoral college.

But the loss of power by the BJP and allies in key states such as Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu and their dwindling seat numbers in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat appear to have contributed to the fall in votes for the NDA candidate. For example, in 2017, Kovind got 166 votes in Rajasthan which came down to 75; In Tamil Nadu, where its ally AIADMK was trounced by the DMK, it fell from 134 to 75; in Maharashtra, from 280 to 181; In Gujarat, it fell from 132 to 121; 171 to 146 in Madhya Pradesh; And in Punjab where AAP came to power, the NDA candidate managed only 8 votes against 18 in 2017.

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In states like West Bengal where the BJP had emerged strong in the last election, Murmu got 71 votes — as against just 11 in 2017. In Karnataka, the number went from 56 to 150. In 2017, Kovind had the support of 522 MPs. 540 MPs supported Murmu.

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