India elected its first woman to the largely ceremonial office of president today, in a landslide vote among parliament and state politicians. Pratibha Patil's supporters hail her victory as a breakthrough for women's rights in the country, while critics assert her reputation is already marred by a slew of personal and financial scandals.
Patil has been accused of swindling cash from a bank that offers loans to poor women, covering up for her brother in a murder inquiry, making derogatory remarks about Muslims, and being too superstitious for modern India. She denies the charges, and Indian politicians have rallied around the watershed election. "This is a very special moment for us women," Sonia Gandhi said.