New Delhi: The Congress began celebrating early Sunday as its candidate Pranab Mukherjee appeared set for a comfortable ride to the Rashtrapati Bhavan as India's 13 president, holding a clear winning edge over his rival P.A. Sangma.
"Pranab's victory is a foregone conclusion... We are already celebrating," Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajv Shukla said here as counting of votes polled in the presidential polls continued at Parliament House here.
Of the 748 votes of MPs counted, Mukherjee had got 527 with a value of 373,116 and Sangma 206 votes with a value of 145,848.
The final result will be out by 4.30 p.m.
Of the total 185 valid votes from Andhra Pradesh, Mukherjee got 182 with a value of 26,936 while Sangma got only three votes.
With this, official sources said, the total value of votes polled in Mukherjee's favour had reached around 400,000, leaving another 125,000 to win.
Fifteen votes were found invalid.
Political parties had begun looking ahead to what kind of a president Mukherjee would make.
Said Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit: "With his years of experience, Mukherjee will be one of the wisest presidents."
"I think he will be a wise president, not being a political president or an administrative president. Because he has so many years of experience in both governance and working in the party, I think he will be one of the wisest presidents we have had," Dikshit told a TV channel.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot met Mukherjee and congratulated him. "Ever since his name was announced, the atmosphere in the whole country was in his favour."
Earlier, officials opened the ballot boxes in Room 63 of Parliament House with representatives of both candidates present.
The first wooden box that was opened contained the votes of MPs cast in Delhi Thursday when the election took place.
Congress leaders, including Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Minister of State in Prime Minister's Office V. Narayanasamy and Rajeev Shukla were in the room.
About 95 percent of the 4,896 electorate exercised their franchise to elect India's 13th president at polling centres set up at Parliament House and 30 state and union territories.
The president is elected by an electoral college of MPs and members of state assemblies.
All MPs except those nominated to parliament are eligible to vote. There are 776 MPs; each MP's vote equals 708 votes.
There were 4,120 assembly members eligible to vote. The value of a legislator's vote is variable depending on the population of the state the member represents.
Besides the support of the UPA led by the Congress, Mukherjee enjoyed the backing of the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Janata Dal-Secular.
Constituents of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance, Janata Dal-United and Shiv Sena, also extended their support to the former finance minister besides the CPI-M and Forward Bloc.
Sangma, a member of the Meghalaya assembly, is supported by the BJP, Akali Dal, Asom Gana Parishad, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, AIADMK and Biju Janata Dal.
The CPI, Telugu Desam Party and Telangana Rashtriya Samiti abstained from voting.