| Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh with Mohammad Hamid Ansari after he was elected Vice-President on Friday. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, Aug. 10: Hamid Ansari was today picked the 13th Vice-President in a poll so short on excitement that Priya Dutt’s “commitment to the constitutional process” became the talking point.
That the pregnant Priya chose to do her duty in spite of star brother Sanjay Dutt being in jail tickled most of those who had gathered at Parliament House more than the expected victory of 70-year-old Ansari.
The only surprise in the otherwise sleepy election came after the results were declared, when Ansari was found to have bagged 31 votes more than there were UPA MPs. (See chart)
Cricket board chief Sharad Pawar, an old warhorse compared to the younger Priya, displayed as much commitment as her, taking a special flight to Delhi to be in time for the election. It was only hours after the funeral of his brother, who died yesterday.
Former Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee showed up in a wheelchair, looking cheerful and flanked by BJP leaders Rajnath Singh and Sushma Swaraj. That NDA candidate Najma Heptullah stood no chance whatsoever did not seem to bother him.
Jailed RJD MP Pappu Yadav, too, came in a wheelchair, sending photographers into a tizzy. Shahabuddin was also there, but none was bothered.
There were a few celebrity voters missing that led to inevitable comparisons with Priya. Govinda called up to say he would not be able to make it, marking the sole absence from the Congress.
From the BJP stable, Dharmendra and Dara Singh were missing. So was Jana Krishnamurthy. Former Union minister Shibu Soren, in jail like Pappu, skipped the election.
So dreary was the scene at Parliament — both Houses adjourned after obituary references to Chandra Shekhar — that the arrival of Mamata Banerjee evoked curiosity. There was more than a flutter when Amar Singh landed, Jaya Prada in tow.
Some BJP abstentions, however, raised eyebrows. There was gossip about Digvijay Singh’s brother Laxman playing truant as also about Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath, who had kicked up a revolt before the Uttar Pradesh polls.
BJP spokesperson V.K. Malhotra had no clue why Yogi, who was in Delhi, stayed away. But he said: “Dharmendra is in the US while Krishnamurthy is in hospital. Dara Singh’s wife is hospitalised.”
How exactly the absences affected the outcome is not known but UPA sources claimed most of the cross-votes had come from the NDA. There were doubts about the voting pattern of the Shiv Sena and the Janata Dal(U), they said.
Parliamentary affairs minister Priya Ranjan Das Munshi said the NDA cross-voting had been “substantial”. Ansari would have got 463 votes, he said, but got eight less because five supporting MPs had not turned up and three votes were declared invalid.