At least 72 per cent turnout in Presidential poll

New Delhi: At least 72 per cent of MPs and MLAs across the country today voted to elect a new President in a race in which UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee is set to win with a huge margin over P A Sangma who is backed by some opposition parties. As many as 4,120 MLAs and 776 MPs with a total vote value of 10.98 lakh votes were eligible to cast their ballot in the election. As per information received from 22 states, 2937 MLAs and 40 MPs had cast their votes.

Information was yet to be received from Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Haryana, Karnataka, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Odisha and Tripura, Rajya Sabha Secretary General and Returning Officer for the poll V K Agnihotri told reporters here.

In Parliament, where 699 MPs and eight MLAs were eligible to exercise their franchise, the turnout was 96.60 per cent with key leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, BJP veteran L K Advani, Mukherjee and Rahul Gandhi voting before noon.

Of the 707 eligible to cast their vote in Parliament, 683 electors–675 MPs and 8 MLAs–cast their ballots when the polling ended at 5:00 p.m. The counting of votes will be taken up on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. In Parliament House, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, whose party is supporting the UPA candidate, mistakenly cast his vote in favour of Sangma. He later tore off the first ballot paper.

The SP chief marked his correct preference on the fresh ballot paper issued to him by the polling officer. However, BJP demanded that Yadav`s second ballot paper be cancelled and the Sangma camp said it would approach the Election Commission over the issue. Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, who had announced her party`s support for Mukherjee almost at the last minute, also cast her ballot at the state assembly in Kolkata and displayed victory sign.

CPI(M) and Forward Bloc have announced their support for Mukherjee while two other Left Front constituents CPI and RSP have decided to abstain from voting. With CPI and RSP abstaining, a total of 124 of the 140 MLAs of Congress-led UDF ruled Kerala cast their votes in the state captial. In Odisha, suspended BJD MLA Prabhat Biswal`s vote in presidential election was rejected for allegedly showing the ballot paper after voting as polling in the 147-member state assembly was under way.

Altogether 80 out of 81 MLAs in Jharkhand assembly voted with ruling BJP alone among alliance partners backing Sangma. Former Chief Minister Madhu Koda, an MP, who is in judicial custody, also cast his vote. A total 240 of the 243 MLAs of Bihar assembly cast their votes with the majority of them supporting UPA-backed Pranab Mukherjee.

A Gandhinagar report said a dissident BJP legislator today claimed he voted for Mukherjee instead of party-backed nominee Sangma in protest against the Narendra Modi government`s "anti-farmer" policy. 181 out of 182 MLAs, including Modi, in Gujarat exercised their franchise. Former Home Minister of State Amit Shah, an accused in the Soharabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, has been barred by the Supreme Court from entering Gujarat and hence he did not cast his vote.

In Parliament House, Congress MP Kanumuri Bapiraju was the first one to cast his vote, who entered the polling booth after taking off his shoes. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said that five Congress MPs including Union Minister S M Krishna and Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna cast their votes outside Delhi. YSR Congress chief Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, who is currently in jail, cast his vote in Andhra Pradesh. In 70-member Delhi Assembly, BJP member H S Balli and Independent MLA Bharat Singh could not vote. While Balli is hospitalised, Singh, who is affiliated to INLD, is recuperating after surviving a bid on his life.