New Delhi: Ram Nath Kovind, the ruling NDA coalition's candidate, was Thursday elected as India's 14th president with an overwhelming majority of votes from the country's lawmakers.
Kovind defeated the joint opposition candidate Meira Kumar, a former Lok Sabha speaker, garnering 65.65 percent of the votes in the Electoral College, the returning officer for the poll announced Thursday.
"I never aspired to be the president. My win is a message to those discharging their duties with integrity. My election as the president is an evidence of the greatness of Indian democracy," Kovind told the media after his victory was announced. "I am feeling emotional."
The 71-year-old, who will be the second dalit to hold the top constitutional position, received 2930 votes with a value of 702044, the returning officer, Anoop Mishra, said.
Kovind is the first BJP member to be elected president. He will take oath on July 25, succeeding president Pranab Mukherjee, for a five-year term.
The Electoral College comprises of Members of Parliament and Members of Legislative Assemblies of all states.
Expressing happiness over the "extensive" support Kovind got from the electoral college, prime minister Narendra Modi said,"Congratulations to Shri Ram Nath Kovind Ji on being elected the president of India! Best wishes for a fruitful & inspiring tenure."
Congratulating her poll rival, Kumar said it had fallen on Kovind to uphold the Constitution in letter and spirit in "these challenging times".
Kumar said that her fight for secularism, the oppressed and the marginalized would continue.
Modi also congratulated Kumar for her campaign, saying it was "in the spirit of democratic ethos and values we all are proud of".
Hailing as "historic" Kovind's election, BJP chief Amit Shah said it is a "victory for the poor, downtrodden and marginalized and their aspirations".
A total of 4,896 voters - 4,120 MLAs and 776 elected MPs - were eligible to cast their ballot. MLCs of states with legislative council are not part of the electoral college.
While the value of an MLA's vote depends on the population of his or her state, the value of an MP's vote remains the same at 708.
The polling was marked by cross-voting in various states where many opposition members favoured Kovind.
The vice-presidential election will be held on August 5. While BJP has nominated a former party president, Venkaiah Naidu, the opposition has fielded former West Bengal governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi.