Woman Among Three In Race To Be India’s Vice-president

Three Muslim candidates, one of them a woman, are to vie for the post of vice-president of India next month after Indian lawmakers voted in the country’s first woman president on Saturday.

One of them is former career diplomat Hamid Ansari, 65, nominated by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and its Left allies.

Another is Najma Heptullah, 67, a choice of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Heptullah, the woman candidate, is a member of the “Rajya Sabha” (upper house of parliament) and a former deputy chairperson of the house.

The third candidate is veteran politician Rasheed Masood, 60, who has been fielded by the so-called “third front” which emerged during the controversy-tainted presidential election and is spearheaded by former Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalita.

The three-cornered contest will take place on Aug 10.

Current vice-president, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, who lost to UPA-backed Pratibha Patil by about 300,000 votes on Saturday in the contest for the presidency, has tendered his resignation although his term expires only next month.

Once again, a UPA-championed candidate — this time Ansari — is expected to win the contest as only parliamentarians are eligible to vote and most members of parliament belong to UPA, a 13-party coalition.

With UPA having almost 385 MPs of the total 790 in parliament, it is obvious that Ansari would sail through easily.

In last Saturday’s presidential polls, Patil, who was handpicked by Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi, won easily. She will be sworn in as the first woman president of India on July 25.

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