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SP divided in two camps on prez-poll eve, cross-voting likely

The Samajwadi Party appears divided on the eve of the presidential election with camps led by its patron Mulayam Singh Yadav and party chief Akhilesh Yadav all set to vote for rival candidates, triggering possibility of cross-voting.
Though the division in the party may not have any bearing on the election result, it will certainly complicate the family feud further, said an SP insider, requesting anonymity.
The sharp differences in the SP on the issue of presidential nominee was clear right from the day Ram Nath Kovind was chosen as the NDA nominee.
Soon after the announcement of Kovind s name, Mulayam had attended a dinner hosted by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath RPT Yogi Adityanath in honour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi here on June 20.
It was seen in political circles as a clear indication of Mulayam s support to the NDA candidate. Significantly, the dinner was skipped by Akhilesh and Mayawati, who are supporting the opposition candidate. The SP patron s vote for Kovind became a foregone conclusion the very day he openly described him as a "strong candidate", said the SP insider.
"Ram Nath Kovind is a good candidate. I have a very old relations with him. BJP has selected a strong candidate. The most important thing is that the BJP has a majority," Mulayam had said on record.
On expected lines, Shivpal, the warring uncle of Akhilesh, said that whatever his elder brother Mulayam decides was the last word for him, indicating that he too would back Kovind. Opposition s candidate Meira Kumar met Akhilesh at the SP headquarters here on Friday before meeting BSP supremo Mayawati to seek votes. Interestingly, Shivpal and another another senior party leader and MLA Azam Khan were conspicuous by their absence. Akhilesh has instructed his MLAs to vote for opposition candidate Meira Kumar, who has "represented a secular ideology.
SP spokesman Rajendra Chaudhary said that Akhilesh Yadav has given instruction to his MLAs to vote for Kumar. Chaudhary said Akhilesh has asked SP MLAs to vote for Kumar.
Another senior SP leader, who is also Leader of the SP Legislature Party, Ram Govind Chaudhary said, "Everyone should support Kumar."
Ram Govind is also the Leader of the Opposition in the 403-member UP Lower House.
In a written appeal circulated to all SP MLAs, Kumar said that the presidential election has given one an opportunity to transcend petty politics and listen to the inner conscience.
Shivpal, meanwhile, has announced in Varanasi that he along with "several" SP MLAs and MPs will vote for Kovind.
"Kovind has very good relations with netaji (Mulayam). He is a good man and the best candidate, Shivpal, an MLA, said. "Netaji jo kahengey wahi hoga" (Whatever netaji says will happen)," he said.
Shivpal-loyalist Deepak Mishra, though not a voter, pledged "open support to Kovind" and thanked the prime minister for his selection.
The SP has five members in the Lok Sabha, including Muayam, and 19 members in the Rajya Sabha, including Amar Singh, who is now an unattached member after his expulsion from the party, besides 47 MLAs in UP.
Since members of the Legislative Council are not part of the electoral college, Akhilesh an MLC cannot vote, though his wife Dimple, a Lok Sabha member, is eligible to participate in the exercise.
Prez poll: Voters can't carry their pens inside voting chamber
MPs and MLAs who vote to elect the next President tomorrow have been barred from carrying their personal pens inside the voting chamber and will have to mark their ballot with a specially-designed marker, the Election Commission said on Sunday.
Following the ink controversy in the Rajya Sabha polls in Haryana last year, the Election Commission has decided to use special pens for the electors to mark their votes in the presidential and vice presidential polls. Specially serial-numbered pens with violet ink have been supplied by the Election Commission to ensure that only the writing instrument issued by it is used by voters to mark their votes tomorrow.
"Before entering the voting chamber, a polling staff will will collect personal pens from the voters and hand over the special pen to mark their vote on the ballot paper.
"When the member comes out of the voting chamber, the special pen will be taken back and the polling staff will return the personal pen," a Commission spokesperson explained the new rule.
While announcing the schedule of the election, the poll panel had made it clear that use of any other pen could lead to invalidation of the vote at the time of counting under the Presidential and Vice Presidential Elections Rules, 1974.
These special pens have been procured from Mysore paints and varnish Ltd which supplies indelible ink to the EC.
In another first, the poll watchdog has also prepared special posters carrying dos and don'ts for the voters. It asks them to use only EC-issued pen and warns that no whip or directive can be issued to party members to vote in favour of any candidate. Since it is a secret ballot, the voters should not disclose whom they have voted for.
Green-coloured ballot papers will be there for members of Parliament and pink for MLAs who vote in the election.
The value of an MLA's vote depends on the population of the state he or she represents. But the value of the vote of an MP does not vary -- it is 708.
Hence, the different colour of ballot papers will help the returning officer count the votes based on the value.
The total value of the electoral college is 10,98,903.
The ballot boxes will be brought to Delhi for counting on July 20.
The electoral college, which elects the President through the system of proportional representation, comprises elected MPs and members of state legislative assemblies -- a total of 4,896 voters including 4,120 MLAs and 776 elected MPs.
While 233 are elected members of the Rajya Sabha, 543 are from the Lok Sabha.
A total of 32 polling stations -- one in Parliament House and one each in the state legislative assemblies, have been set up.
33 observers have been appointed by the EC to oversee the conduct of election.
55 MPs to vote in their state assemblies for prez poll: EC
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his Goa counterpart Manohar Parrikar are among 55 MPs who will vote in their state assemblies instead of Parliament House for the presidential election tomorrow, an Election Commission document says.
Five MLAs will cast their ballot in Parliament House and four other legislators will vote in state assemblies which they have not been elected to.
Usually, MPs vote in Parliament House and MLAs in their respective state assemblies.
As per rules governing presidential elections, lawmakers can ask the Commission to make an exception to allow them to vote from some other place.
According to the EC document, it has allowed 14 Rajya Sabha and 41 Lok Sabha members to vote in state assemblies instead of Parliament House tomorrow.
These include Parrikar, Adityanath and UP Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya, who have not yet given up their Parliament membership. While Parrikar is a Rajya Sabha member, Adityanath and Maurya are Lok Sabha members.
Most of the MPs who would vote in their respective assemblies belong to the Trinamool Congress. While MPs will mark their vote on a green-coloured ballot paper, pink-coloured ballot papers will be used for MLAs.
Prez poll is fight against 'divisive, communal vision': Sonia
A day before the presidential election, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi today described the electoral contest as a fight against a "narrow-minded, divisive and communal vision".
Addressing opposition leaders in the presence of their presidential and vice presidential nominees - Meira Kumar and Gopal Krishna Gandhi respectively, she said, in these contests, the numbers may be against them but "the battle must be fought and fought hard".
"We cannot and must not let India be hostage to those who wish to impose upon it a narrow-minded, divisive and communal vision," she said.
According to the text of her speech, she said, "We must stand more aware than ever of who we are, what we fought for in our independence struggle and what future we want for ourselves.
"We must have confidence in the values we believe in.
This election represents a clash of ideas, a conflict of disparate values. The election demands a vote of conscience to preserve the India that the Mahatma and that illustrious generation of freedom fighters, joined by thousands upon thousands of ordinary men and women, fought for," she said.
She said the presence of representatives from different parties to support Kumar and Gopal Gandhi confirms that "the fight for an inclusive, tolerant and pluralistic India is being truly waged".
The vice presidential poll will be held on August 5.
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