del6340741_7f0488b55815a1d237555b0f75a6ce18.nbcnews-ux-2880-1000

Indian Lawmakers Voting to Elect Next President

Indian lawmakers and state legislators are voting to choose the country’s next president, in an election that will likely tighten the grip of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party over top government posts.

Voting began on Monday at 10:00 a.m. local time and will end at 5:00 p.m. local time, with some 4,900 legislators nationwide taking part.

The results of the election will be announced on July 20. The winner will replace incumbent President Pranab Mukherjee and will be sworn into office for a five-year term a week later.

The next president will be selected between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) contender Ram Nath Kovind and his main rival Meira Kumar, the nominee of the Congress-led opposition and a Dalit.

Kovind, the former governor of the eastern state of Bihar, has been under fire by Modi’s rivals over his association with a Hindu group that has long been accused of stoking religious hatred against the country’s Muslims.

He is expected to garner more than 70 percent of the votes and win the election.

“We have the support of 21 chief ministers and more than 30 political parties,” said Kovind’s campaign manager Bhupendra Yadav.

Modi also congratulated Kovind in advance on Sunday and pledged to support him.

Kovind’s opponent, Kumar, is the daughter of freedom fighter Babu Jagjivan Ram. She was a diplomat before entering politics in 1985 and became India’s first woman speaker in 2009.

Many in India consider her nomination as an attempt to counter Modi’s move to woo Dalits— a community at the lowest end of the Hindu complex caste system— who still face widespread discrimination in the country.

 

 

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