New Delhi: Pranab Mukherjee will be the 13th President of India. Dapperly dressed in dark bandhgala, his wife of 55 years, Suvra, beaming by his side, Mr Mukherjee stayed home on Sunday greeting the many visitors streaming in to congratulate him. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are there now. Speaker Meira Kumar has just arrived with a big bouquet of flowers.
The rigours of a long day barely show on the 76-year-old. Votes for the Presidential elections are still being counted in Parliament House, where Mr Mukherjee's poll managers, all senior ministers, gathered excited as their candidate's total crossed the magic mark - 5.25 lakh of the 10.5 lakh total votes. They immediately phoned him. Mr Mukherjee said, "thank you very, very much."
Soon after being elected, Mr Mukherjee also phoned JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav and thanked him for his party's support to him. Mr Yadav, who is the NDA convener, also congratulated Mr Mukherjee and his family for the victory.
"I express my deep gratitude and thank people of this great country for conferring this distinction by electing me to this high post. I have received much more from the people, parties, Parliament than I have given them... I will try to justify," said Mr Mukherjee, addressing the media.
An official announcement will be made as soon as all votes are counted. Then, the man who has worn many hats will be known as President-elect. Till Wednesday, July 25, when he is sworn in as President. He will take oath 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."
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.
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 routine, his campaign manager said. He read the papers, had tea, bathed and did his pooja.
Then, he had to begin meeting the deluge of visitors.
PA Sangma is not giving up even now. At a press conference he wished Mr Mukherjee much success but also described this year's Presidential elections as a "partisan and political" one. Team Sangma 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.