New Delhi: Pranab Mukherjee will be the 13th President of India. Sources say he has now crossed the magic mark - 5.25 lakh of the 10.5 lakh total votes, and as soon as counting is over, he shall be officially declared winner. Mr Mukherjee has said, "thank you very, very much."
As soon as all votes are counted and an official announcement is made today, the man who has worn many hats will be known as President-elect. Till Wednesday, July 25, when he is sworn in as President. (Read: Pranab Mukherjee - 'Village boy' to President-in-waiting) He has already conveyed that he would like to be sworn in on that day at 11.30 am in the Central Hall of Parliament, a familiar haunt of over four decades for Mr Mukherjee. The Chief Justice of India will administer the oath of office.
On Wednesday morning, Mr Mukherjee will be escorted by the Military Secretary to the President of India, to Rashtrapati Bhavan. From there President Pratibha Patil and Mr Mukherjee will leave in a ceremonial cavalcade for the swearing-in ceremony. The short route will be lined with soldiers in ceremonial dress.
Defence Minister AK Antony has said the UPA will miss Mr Mukherjee, Home Minister P Chidambaram has thanked allies and friends and the BJP's Ravi Shankar Prasad has congratulated him "warmly." (Live Blog)
Counting began at 11 am today and Mr Mukherjee took an early lead winning 72 per cent of the MP votes, which were counted first. Sources told NDTV that Mr Mukherjee, the UPA's nominee, bagged 527 votes out of the 748 votes of MPs. His opponent and the NDA's candidate, PA Sangma, got 206 votes, according to sources. That meant 3, 73,116 lakh votes in Mr Mukherjee's kitty.
State after big state thereafter delivered as expected in favour of Mr Mukherjee and his lead widened - Kerala, in fact, saw all its 124 legislators voting for him. BJP-ruled states like Goa, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat did give Mr Sangma more votes but it was just not enough. BJP-ruled Karnataka grabbed headlines as usual; Mr Mukherjee got more votes than he expected because of massive cross-voting, sources said. Mr Mukherjee got 117 votes, Mr Sangma 103. That was 53 per cent votes for Mr Mukherjee and the brand new government of Jagadish Shettar will have some explaining to do. (Read: Cross-voting in favour of Pranab Mukherjee in Karnataka) | (How MPs and MLAs voted)
Mr Mukherjee's victory had been a given and long before the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress became the last ally to announce support for him. Apart from all the UPA allies, parties such as the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, as well as two Left parties - the CPM and the Forward Bloc - have also backed him.
Mr Mukherjee's Sunday morning was a routine, his campaign manager said. He read the papers, had tea, bathed and did his pooja. (Read: From Poltu to President: 5 little-known facts about Pranab Mukherjee) Then began an endless stream of visitors which is right now a serpentine queue waiting to meet him.
Among those that have already visited his 13, Talkatora Road residence are Home Minister P Chidambaram, with whom Mr Mukherjee's relationship has been stormy in recent times. Other Congress leaders have visited him too. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi are expected to visit him after he is formally announced winner.
PA Sangma is not giving up even now. His election team has said it will move court insisting that Mr Mukherjee's nomination is invalid. Team Sangma contends that Mr Mukherjee held an office of profit as the chairman of the Kolkata-based Indian Statistical Institute on the day he filed his nomination papers. Mr Mukherjee has said he had resigned from that position much before the date of filing nomination and has furnished papers which have since been cleared by the election officer. Mr Sangma's team still alleges those papers are forged.