Voting under way to elect new India president

Independents flock to support Ram Nath Kovind

Lawmakers across the country are set to choose the new President on Monday, in an election that has pitched NDA nominee Ram Nath Kovind against the joint Opposition candidate, Meira Kumar.

"We have the support of 21 chief ministers and more than 30 political parties", said Kovind's campaign manager Bhupendra Yadav. "All rumours are baseless and should be ignored", he added.

Leader of the opposition in the Assembly and leader of the Congress Legislature Party Narsingh Mishra said both these MLAs may not vote in the presidential polls.

The result of the presidential election will be declared on July 20.

If elected, Kovind will be the second Dalit President of India.

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Congress president Sonia Gandhi rallied opposition ranks before the vote, also calling the contest a "clash of ideas and a conflict of disparate values". There are around 776 MP's and 4120 MLA's who will decide next president in a secret ballot vote. While Ram Nath Kovind has been able to get the support of non-NDA parties like JD (U) and TRS, Meira Kumar could not convince some of the congress ally like JD (U). The votes share of the 60 MLAs is 1020 while that of the the 3 MPs, Conrad K Sangma, Vincent Pala and Wansuk Syiem is 2124.

Kovind's name was announced as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA's candidate by BJP president Amit Shah on June 19. Some of the MLAs also raised the issue of differences between the organisational and legislative wings in the party and drew attention of the AICC observer to the statements made by former minister Suresh Kumar Routray against them. At the time of her nomination, Meira had said, "This election is a fight of ideology".

Dalits, who number around 200 million in the nation of 1.3 billion, form a sizeable chunk of the population in some states which go to polls this year and early next year. It is expected that Ramnath Kovid as the victor as he has the support of many non-NDA parties all over the country.

Churchill said, "I came here because I was invited by Parrikar".

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