Former diplomat Ansari elected India’s vice-president

Mohammad Hamid Ansari, a former diplomat and academic, was elected India’s new vice-president on Friday.

A nominee of the ruling alliance, Ansari, 70, defeated opposition-backed rival, Najma Heptullah, by 233 votes for the largely ceremonial post. He is India’s third Muslim vice-president.

An electoral college of members of parliament elects the vice-president, who also acts as chairperson of the Rajya Sabha.

“Mohammad Hamid Ansari has been declared elected vice-president,” returning officer Yogendra Narain told reporters.

Last month, India elected its first female president, Pratibha Patil, in what supporters called a boost for the rights of millions of disadvantaged women, despite a vitriolic campaign by the opposition questioning her suitability.

He headed the National Commission for Minorities, a body set up to protect the rights of minorities, including Muslims who make up more than 13 percent of India’s 1.1 billion population.

Ansari was India’s envoy to the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Australia and the country’s permanent representative to the United Nations, according to his official bio data.

He is a former vice-chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University, a historical university in north India, and a recipient of the country’s prestigious civilian award, the Padma Shri.

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