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General India Elects First Female President

Jan 7, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
India elects first female president
21/07/2007 10:52:45 AM

India's ruling United Progressive Alliance's candidate for the post of Indian President Pratibha Patil greets the crowd during her visit to the Sabarmati Ashram, the residence of Mahatma Gandhi, in Ahmadabad, India, in this July 15, 2007, file photo.(AP Photo/Ajit Solanki, FILE)

The governing Congress party's candidate, 72-year-old Pratibha Patil, received 65.82 per cent of the vote on Saturday. Ballots were cast by national lawmakers and state legislators.

Patil was widely expected to win, The Associated Press reports.

"I am grateful to the people of India, to all the men and women of India," Patil said in a brief statement to reporters.

"This is a victory of the principles of which our Indian people uphold."

The win is seen as a victory, in particular, for Indian women who have complained of widespread discrimination.
When the results were announced, hundreds of party supporters in Patil's hometown of Maharashtra and near her home in New Delhi spilled into the streets to dance, bang drums and set off fireworks in celebration.

Patil defeated incumbent candidate Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, a member of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.

She will be sworn in on July 25 for a five-year term as president.

The position is seen as largely ceremonial, however, and follows a trend in India where the post is won by a member of a disadvantaged community.
Discrimination is common, largely because daughters are often seen as an expensive liability for families traditionally required to pay a dowry to a groom's family.

Female fetuses are often aborted, and education and medical treatment for female children is often neglected, AP reports.

Patil's campaign has been marked by mudslinging almost from the moment it began, with attention focusing on several scandals involving her family.
Critics said she had few credentials for the job beyond a strong loyalty to the Ghandi family.

Patil was a lawyer before entering politics and becoming a member of the state legislation in 1962. From there she held several ministerial portfolios and served as a member of India's parliament.

It is not clear how much impact Patil will have as India's 13th president.

With files from The Associated Press


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