Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former PM Manmohan Singh, who came in a wheelchair, were among the early voters in the polls held on Monday to elect India’s 15th President. There was a 99% turnout in the election that pitted NDA’s Droupadi Murmu against Opposition’s joint candidate, Yashwant Sinha. Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman arrived in Parliament in a PPE suit, as did her ministerial colleague, R K Singh, who is recovering from Covid. In all, 4,796 MPs and MLAs across the country cast their vote, with as many as 11 states and one UT reporting 100% turnout, the Election Commission said. The poll result will be declared on Thursday (July 21). Crossvoting in favour of the NDA nominee in several states and absenteeism by MLAs in some others created a sideshow of dissidence in the opposition ranks. There were reports of cross-voting from UP (by some SP members), Gujarat (by the lone NCP MLA) and Odisha (by a Cong member). In Bengal, BJP declared its MLA count as 70 instead of 75, anticipating cross-voting by those who had unofficially defected, amid cross-vote allegations by both the ruling TMC and BJP. A Congress MLA in Telangana said he had ‘mistakenly’ voted for Murmu. Across the country, several MLAs abstained, including at least eight from the northeast and a Shiromani Akali Dal member in Punjab who said he was boycotting the polls in protest.
Voting for the presidential election also marked the start of Parliament's monsoon session, with PM Modi saying this was a particularly important period. “It is the period of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav. There is a special significance of August 15 and the coming 25 years, when the nation would celebrate 100 years of independence,” he said, urging lawmakers to hold discussions on various issues with an open mind