Pranab Mukherjee named India's 13th president in Congress party victory


Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee (L) speaks during a press conference as his Afghan counterpart Rangin Dadfar Spanta (R) looks on at the Foreign Ministry in Kabul on January 22, 2009.


Shah Marai

 Pranab Mukherjee was named India's 13th President on Sunday, signalling a victory for the ruling Congress party, whose collective reputation is suffering from slow economic growth and graft allegations.

The former finance minister was the "overwhelming" favorite in the race, according to the Times of India.  

Mukherjee, 76, won the race with 713,937 votes out of 1,029,924, reported the Wall Street Journal today, a handy victory for a nervous party. He was running against P.A Sangma, a former speaker of Parliament and the chosen candidate of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). 

The Presidency in India is a largely ceremonial position, reported the AFP today, which added that while the Prime Minister holds the majority of executive power, the President does have the ability to steer the agenda. 

Mukherjee will be working closely with Prime Minister and Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi in his new role. His election is extremely good news for the dominant Congress party, which could be facing a hung parliament in 2014, reported AFP: an agency editorial also dubbed him a potential "kingmaker."

He's also able to cross party lines: AP reports that some members of the BJP backed him. 

Mukherjee, according to AP, didn't exactly have a sterling record as Finance Minister, however: the news agency reports his time in the role "was marred by declining growth, a tumbling currency, rising inflation and a failure to push through proposed reforms."

Bloomberg reported that the Congress Party must now switch its focus to increasing lapsing investor confidence. Earlier this month, India began to relax formerly hard-lined retail rules in an effort to attract foreign investment - and avoid driving away beloved Swedish furniture company Ikea, Reuters reported. 

Mukherjee, who will be sworn in Wednesday according to AFP, takes over from Pratibha Patil - India's first female President.