Veteran dealmaker Mukherjee elected Indian president

Former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee was elected Indian president on Sunday after votes from national and state lawmakers were counted in the race for the mainly ceremonial post.

Some analysts believe Mukherjee, a veteran from the ruling Congress party, may take a more active approach to the job than his predecessors as India struggles with a parliamentary deadlock and slowing economic growth.

Mukherjee, 76, collected 69 percent of the votes, easily beating his only rival P.A. Sangma, 64, a former lower house speaker and tribal leader from the remote northeast who was backed by the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.

"I would like to thank the people of this great country for conferring this distinction by electing me to this high office," Mukherjee told crowds of cheering supporters gathered outside his residence in New Delhi.

"They have entrusted me with the responsibility to protect, to defend, to preserve the constitution as president of the republic."

India's president, who takes up residence in a 340-room palace built in the capital for the British viceroy during colonial rule, is chosen by legislators from the two houses of parliament and state assemblies.

Under the constitution, the prime minister wields most of the executive power, but the president can send back some bills for reconsideration and also plays a guiding role in the process of forming governments.

The next general election, due to be held in 2014, is predicted to be close, which could lead to a period of complex horse-trading between numerous national and regional parties trying to form a stable coalition government.

"It's in this turbulent scenario Mukherjee as a president will be able to steer the ship of the state. He's a troubleshooter," said Sanjay Kumar, an analyst at India's Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

Mukherjee may also try to use the presidential position to foster a behind-the-scenes deal between warring parties who have reduced parliament to a stalemate in recent sessions.

He has a reputation as a canny negotiator, and was described by leaked US embassy cables in 2009 as "the ultimate Congress Party fixer and operator" with clear ambitions at that time to become prime minister.

"He is the president of India, he is not the president of a particular party," said senior Congress party figure Sheila Dikshit, the chief minister of Delhi.

Mukherjee commands widespread respect across party lines, but his performance as finance minister was criticised for his failure to push through reforms to further liberalise India's economy.

His exit from the ministry raised investors' hopes that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who took over the finance portfolio, could embark on long-awaited moves such as opening up the retail sector to foreign investment.

Mukherjee's success on Sunday was a welcome victory for the embattled Congress party, which has been beset by a string of graft scandals, policy reversals and a raft of disappointing economic data.

Sangma congratulated his opponent but criticised Congress for running an "exceptionally partisan and political" campaign for the head of state.

Mukherjee will be formally sworn in on Wednesday, taking over for a five-year term from Pratibha Patil, India's first woman president.

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • What can void a new car warranty? James Deakin - Wheel Power
    What can void a new car warranty?

    "I was denied warranty once for changing my horn!" One very annoyed reader wrote. "I was told that placing a backup camera will void my warranty" said another. The others are best left in my private inbox as Yahoo! have a swear jar in the office that I do not feel like donating this week's pay to. Continue reading → …

  • Docu exposes destruction of PH marine resources VERA Files - The Inbox
    Docu exposes destruction of PH marine resources

    By Kiersnerr Gerwin B. Tacadena, VERA Files “Gutom (hunger),” Sen. Loren Legarda said is what’s in store for the Filipino people if destruction of the country's marine resources is not stopped. Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on Environment and Natural … Continue reading → …

  • ‘Yolanda’ fiberglass boats modern-day Noah’s ark VERA Files - The Inbox
    ‘Yolanda’ fiberglass boats modern-day Noah’s ark

    By Jane Dasal, VERA Files If you want to save the earth, build a boat. That's what a group of environmentalists is saying, especially if you want to save both the forests and fishermen affected by supertyphoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan). “Haiyan … Continue reading → …

POLL
Loading...
Poll Choice Options