Who will be India’s next president?

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The President of India does not exercise executive powers, but all executive decisions are made in his name. It is constitutionally required to act on the advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister.

But the president can ask the government to reconsider its actions and offer advice. In terms of legislation, for example. Thus, it would be wrong to say that the role is only ceremonial or that the president is only a figurehead or a rubber stamp.

Presidents like Pranab Mukherjee have been quite firm, especially when dealing with requests for pardons from death row inmates. One of the most crucial roles of the president is seen when no party is able to secure a parliamentary majority in a national election.

So the presidential election is crucial, and you should care. The election is indirect, but the result indicates the level of popular support from both sides, the government and the opposition, in the country.

There are several key questions you might be concerned about, from the polling process to favorites, the numbers game and possible scenarios. But first, let’s get a few important dates out of our way.

The notification for the election of the 16th President of India was released on June 15. The vote will take place on July 18. The counting of the votes, if necessary, will be carried out and the result announced on July 21. The vote will not take place in the case of a consensus candidate. Current President Ram Nath Kovind’s term ends on July 24.

Now, how is the election going?

THE SURVEY PROCESS

  • The President is elected by the members of the electoral college consisting of elected members of both Houses of Parliament and elected members of the legislatures of all states and the National Capital Territory of Delhi and the Union Territory of Pondicherry.
  • This means that appointed members of the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha or state legislatures are not part of the electoral college. Similarly, members of legislative councils do not participate in the electoral process either.
  • The value of MPs’ and MPs’ votes varies according to the population of the states from which they come.
  • It is mandatory that 50 deputies nominate the candidate, followed by 50 others who second the candidacy.
  • The ballot will take place in the Parliament and in the premises of the legislative assemblies of the States.
  • The election takes place by secret ballot. A single transferable vote is used under the proportional representation system.
  • On the ballot, there are two columns. Candidates’ names are listed in the first column and the order of preference is listed in the second column.

THE NUMBERS GAME

  • The electoral college has 4,809 voters, including 776 Members of Parliament (MPs) and 4,033 Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs).
  • The total value of votes will be 10,86,431. To win, a candidate must obtain at least 5,43,216 votes.
  • In the last elections of 2017, NDA’s Ram Nath Kovind defeated joint opposition candidate Meira Kumar. Kovind received 7,02,000 votes against 3,67,000 for Kumar, out of a total of 10,69,358 votes.
  • Basically, the ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has 48% of the vote this time. It is 23% for the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), led by Congress.
  • Thus, the NDA should have no problem getting its candidate elected. But the competition will become tight if all the non-BJP parties unite (which explains the hectic consultations on both sides). Then the opposition will have around 51% of the vote.
  • It’s unlikely. Some reports indicate that “independents” such as the ruling YSRCP in Andhra Pradesh and the ruling BJD in Odisha may support the NDA. The BJP’s ally in Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK, could also do so.
  • The BJP allowed its party chairman, JP Nadda, and Union minister, Rajnath Singh, to hold consultations with NDA and UPA voters, as well as other political parties, as well as with independent members. A consensual candidate is always preferable.

LIKELY CANDIDATES

The general impression is that the BJP is unlikely to re-appoint Kovind. Rajendra Prasad was the only president to win two full terms. The two camps have not yet named their candidates. But that doesn’t mean we’re short on suggestions.

  • Former West Bengal governor and grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, Gopalkrishna Gandhi has been approached by some leaders to be a joint opposition candidate. It is the suggestion of the left.
  • There is talk of NCP leader Sharad Pawar exploring the possibility of pushing dissident Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad as an opposition candidate.
  • On the other hand, probable NDAs may include Governor of Kerala Mohammad Arif Khan, Former Governor of Jharkhand and Tribal Chief of Odisha Draupadi Murmu, Governor of Chhattisgarh and Tribal Chief Anusuiya Uikey, Governor Telangana Tamilsai Soundararajan, governor of Karnataka and Dalit leader Thawar Chand Gehlot, former Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and tribal leader of Odisha Jual Oram
  • A warning: the BJP remains capable of surprising everyone, like when it appointed APJ Abdul Kalam Azad in 2002.
  • The name of the leader of the TMC, Yashwant Sinha (although the ruling party in Bengal, TMC, has indicated that none of its own members will stand) is also mentioned.
  • Earlier reports said Congress, TMC, AAP and Shiv Sena wanted Pawar to be the opposition candidate, but he declined the offer.
  • JD(U) leader and Bihar minister Shravan Kumar has said party leader and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar could be a good candidate. Maharashtra minister and NCP spokesman Nawab Malik said Kumar’s candidacy as the opposition choice could be considered if he cut his ties with the BJP/NDA in Bihar. For his part, Nitish Kumar clarified that he never wanted and will not contest the presidential election.

CRACKS IN THE OPPOSITION

Cracks have appeared in the opposition camp. Congress is currently concerned about rallying support for its leader Rahul Gandhi, questioned by the Law Enforcement Branch in the National Herald money laundering case.

In fact, there is not a single opposition camp. There is the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA). But it is mostly Congress with non-ruling allies like Bihar’s RJD. The Congress rules Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and is a junior partner in states such as Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu.

West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC leader Mamata Banerjee met with Sharad Pawar, whose NCP party is part of Maharashtra’s ruling Shiv Sena-led MVA coalition which also includes the Congress.

Banerjee is trying to bring everyone together on a single platform, but Congress, while attending consultations led by her, does not want to be overshadowed by a former congresswoman. The big old party also holds its own meetings.

The left is not satisfied with Banerjee’s “unilaterally” organized deliberations. The AAP of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal (who also leads Punjab) has been a critic of Congress and cautious of Banerjee on domestic policy. On the other hand, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao of TRS has his own ambitions.

The Congress has asked its leader Mallikarjun Kharge to hold talks with all like-minded parties on the possibility of presenting a common candidate. Kharge met NCP leader Sharad Pawar at the latter’s residence in Mumbai on June 9.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi herself contacted opposition leaders, including DMK leader MK Stalin Pawar, CPM’s Sitaram Yechury.

Banerjee and Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao, both non-UPA leaders, also met with MVA leaders.

On June 15, Banerjee held a meeting with opposition leaders in Delhi where no one from the AAP, TRS and BJD came despite invitations. Pawar, Mehbooba Mufti of the PDP, Omar Abdullah of the NC and Akhilesh Yadav of the SP, as well as some Congress leaders, including Kharge, participated in the meeting convened to prepare a common strategy.

It looks like a fractured opposition could once again help the BJP in an important election. Unless, of course, the oft-quoted mirage of total opposition unity finally becomes a reality.

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