AP Photo/Manish Swarup
Presidential Poll: Counting of Votes Begins

Counting of votes for the 14th Presidential election began here today in which UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee has a clear edge over BJP-backed Purno Sangma.

Counting of ballots began amidst tight security in Parliament House here in the presence of authorised representatives of both Mukherjee and Sangma.

The ballot boxes of votes cast in Parliament House were taken up first for counting after which those from the states will be opened.

Authorised representatives inspected the seals of the ballot boxes and the counting began after ascertaining that they were not tampered with.

As many as 95 per cent of the 4,896 electors -- 776 MPs and 4,120 MLAs -- had exercised their franchise on Thursday at the polling centres set up in Parliament House and 30 other states and Union territories with assemblies.

All the ballot boxes from the states had reached Parliament House yesterday and were kept in a strong room.

Mukherjee appears set to win the election comfortably with UPA managers confident that he would bag over seven lakh of vote value of the total votes polled.

The UPA constituents and its key supporting parties like SP, BSP, RJD and others had supported Mukherjee. Besides, he also got the support of opposition parties like Shiv Sena and JD(U).

BJP-backed Sangma is expected to garner a vote value of around three lakh.

The vote of SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav had been declared invalid by the Election Commission on the ground that he violated the code of secrecy by revealing his ballot. Yadav had initially voted for Sangma and then tore the ballot paper when he realised his mistake.

Home Minister P Chidambaram and Mukherjee's representatives Union Ministers Pawan Kumar Bansal, Rajeev Shukla, V Narayanasamy and Paban Singh Ghatowar and Sangma's representatives Satyapal Jain and B Mahtab were present at the counting venue.

UPA managers said the estimated total value of the votes cast was 10,50,279 and Mukherjee would be deemed elected the moment the value of votes cast in his favour crosses 5,25,140.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi are scheduled to drive down to Mukherjee's residence to congratulate him soon after the results are announced by Returning Officer V K Agnihotri.

Agnihotri will submit the report to the Election Commission. Chief Election Commissioner V Sampath will then call on the President-elect to hand over the election certificate.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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