Indian politicians vote to elect new president

Patrice Gainsbourg
Julho 17, 2017

In all, 4,120 members of state assemblies will vote and 776 parliamentarians.

India's parliament began voting on Monday for a new president in an election likely to be won by a candidate backed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), tightening its grip over top political positions. She is backed by main opposition Indian National Congress party.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, among the first to cast his vote in parliament, said he looked forward to working with Kovind.

The result will be announced Thursday. "Probably for the first time no party has made any undignified or unwarranted comment on the rival candidate", Modi tweeted on the eve of the poll.

Some presidents, such as outgoing President Pranab Mukherjee, have tried to act as conscience-keepers, using their constitutional authority as the head of state to defend India's founding principles as a secular, diverse democracy.

Dalits, who number around 200 million in the nation of 1.3 billion, are among India´s poorest communities and relegated to the margins of society.

On the day of the vote, media reported the case of a Dalit labourer allegedly beaten to death by upper-caste attackers, highlighting the plight of the "untouchable" caste.

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Kovind's opponent, Kumar, is the daughter of freedom fighter Babu Jagjivan Ram.

Her nomination, which followed Kovind´s, was seen by many as an opposition attempt to counter Modi´s move to woo Dalits.

Sonia Gandhi, the head of the Congress party, appealed to members of parliament to vote for Kumar to protect India's secular values.

"We can not and must not let India be hostage to those who wish to impose upon it a narrow-minded, divisive and communal vision", Gandhi said.

Analysts say Modi is trying to secure Dalit support ahead of critical 2019 general elections.

"The Dalit community has bases across the country especially in all the big, electorally significant states", said Nistula Hebbar, political editor of The Hindu newspaper.

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