Mumbai (AsiaNews / Agencies) - This morning, the elections are being held
for the new president of India.
Mukherjee, candidate of the United
Progressive Alliance (UPA, the ruling coalition), is seen as the favorite
to replace Pratibha Patil, the first woman ever elected as president. His
main contender, PA Sangma, a Christian politician supported by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, the Hindu
ultra-nationalist opposition party). Beginning
at 10 (local time), the voting will end at 17 (local time). The results will
be announced on July 22 next.
The President of India is not elected by the people, but an electoral college composed of members of parliament and several States assemblies. The mandate lasts five years.
Former Minister of Finance (he resigned after his official candidacy, ed), Pranab Mukherjee is considered one of the most experienced and capable politicians in the country. His political career began in 1969 under the government of Indira Gandhi, for whom he was Minister of Finance. During Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's first term, he has served as defense minister (2004-2006) and for Foreign Affairs (2006-2009).
The political history of Purno Agitok Sangma, a tribal Catholic, makes his candidacy for the presidency, "curious". A member of Congress (the main UPA party) and former president of the Lok Sabha (Lower House or House of the People), in 1998 he left the party to form the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). At the root of the rupture, the decision to elect Sonia Gandhi Congress President. In his election campaign he has effectively "acquitted" the BJP for the anti-Christian pogroms in Kandhamal, generating a strong debate among the Indian public - Christian and otherwise - because his candidacy is supported by the ultra-nationalist Hindu party.
The President has no real power in India, but can play a key role in the case of a constitutional crisis: a scenario that could take shape with the general elections of 2014. Precisely for this reason, the Congress is hoping on a victory for Pranab Mukherjee to regain popularity and recover from a series of corruption scandals, as well as the problems in the Indian economy.