Presidential election to be held on July 18, counting on July 21
New Delhi: The election for the next President of India will be held on July 18 in which 4,809 electors comprising MPs and MLAs will vote to elect incumbent Ram Nath Kovind's successor, the Election Commission announced on Thursday.
Going by its strength in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, as well as in many state assemblies, the BJP is in a comfortable position to ensure the victory of the candidate nominated by it in the upcoming election.
The nominations can be filed till June 29 after the issue of notification on June 15, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar told a press conference.
Counting for the poll will take place in the Capital on July 21, after all ballots from states are brought here.
Kovind's term ends on July 24 and an election for the next president has to be held before that day.
With the EC setting the ball rolling, all eyes are now on who will be the BJP's choice for the top constitutional post as the party with the support of its allies has a clear advantage. Though the BJP and its allies in the NDA have fewer MLAs than they had during the 2017 presidential polls, their numbers of MPs have gone up since.
A BJP leader said the ruling NDA already has close to 50 per cent of votes in the electoral college. The alliance is hopeful of getting support from independent regional parties like the ruling YSRCP in Andhra Pradesh and the incumbent BJD in Odisha. The BJP is also counting on support from AIADMK, its ally in the last Tamil Nadu assembly polls.
Despite not having numbers on its side, the Opposition is likely to put up a joint candidate for the election and consultations in this regard have already begun.
Sources said that Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge has reached out to leaders of some opposition parties and sought their views for a joint opposition candidate who can be fielded.
Some opposition parties are of the view that they should not give a walkover to the ruling dispensation but put up a fight, the sources said.
CPI Rajya Sabha member Binoy Viswam said the Congress had reached out to him to discuss a "common candidate".
"Consultations for the presidential election have begun among various opposition parties," a senior opposition leader said, adding that once a consensus is arrived at, a joint candidate may be put up.
Though the final list of electors will be notified after the bye-elections to three Lok Sabha seats and the Rajya Sabha polls to 16 seats, the NDA has 440 MPs in its favour while the opposition UPA has around 180 MPs, besides 36 MPs of Trinamool Congress who normally support the opposition candidate.
The Congress and the BJP are likely to win six more Rajya Sabha seats in the June 10 election and the UPA partners may bag three seats more.
According to rough calculations, the NDA has around 5,35,000 votes out of a total of 10,86,431 votes of all electors.
This includes 3,08,000 votes with the support of its MPs along with that of its allies.
Among the states, the BJP has the maximum of 56,784 votes from Uttar Pradesh where it has 273 MLAs. Each MLA in Uttar Pradesh has the maximum vote of 208. The NDA will get its second-highest votes among states from Bihar where with 127 MLAs, it will get 21,971 votes as each legislator has 173 votes, followed by 18,375 votes from Maharashtra where it has 105 MLAs and each has 175 votes.
With 131 MLAs, the NDA will get 17,161 votes from Madhya Pradesh, 16,464 votes of 112 MLAs from Gujarat and 15,982 votes of its 122 MLAs in Karnataka.
The UPA, on the other hand, has a little over 1,50,000 votes from among its MPs and will get around the same number of votes from its legislators in states. Opposition candidates in the past too have been getting a little more than 3 lakh votes in the previous elections for the highest post in the country.
The value of the vote of a Member of Parliament has gone down to 700 from 708 in the presidential polls this time due to the absence of a legislative assembly in Jammu and Kashmir.
Kumar said the EC is fully geared to conduct the election in a free and fair manner, while all Covid-related safety protocol would be followed during the voting and counting of votes.
He further said that no political party will be allowed to issue any kind of whip in this election, which will be held on secret ballot.
"The Constitution has expressly provided that election to the office of President shall be by secret ballot. Therefore, the electors are expected to scrupulously maintain secrecy of vote. There is no concept of open voting in this election and showing the ballot to anyone under any circumstances in the case of Presidential and Vice-Presidential elections is totally prohibited," the CEC said.
Any violation of the voting procedure will entail cancellation of the ballot paper by the presiding officer, he said, adding that the marking of vote can be done only with the particular pen provided by the presiding officer to the electors at the place of polling.
"It is the resolve of the EC that there should be no malpractice of any kind in this election for the highest office in the country and if anything is found, it is a ground for election petition in the Supreme Court and could lead to cancellation," Kumar said, adding that the entire process of voting would be videographed.
He said as per Section 18 of the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Act, 1952, the offence of 'bribery' or 'undue influence' as defined in Sections 171B and 171C of IPC, by the returned candidate or any person with the consent of the returned candidate are among the grounds on which the election can be declared void by the Supreme Court in an election petition.
Scrutiny of nominations will take place on June 30 and the last date for withdrawal of nominations will be July 2.
If necessary, the voting will take place on July 18 and counting of votes on July 21.
Kumar said the total number of electors for the election will be 4,809, comprising 776 MPs and 4,033 MLAs.
Voting for the presidential election will take place in Parliament and the premises of state assemblies, while Rajya Sabha Secretary-General will be the returning officer. 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 legislative assemblies of all states including the National Capital Territory of Delhi and the Union Territory of Puducherry.
The nominated members of either Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha or legislative assemblies of the states are not eligible to be included in the electoral college and therefore, they are not entitled to participate in the election.
Similarly, members of the legislative councils are also not electors for the presidential election.
Incidentally, there has only been one presidential election in 1977 where Neelam Sanjiva Reddy was elected unopposed after the candidatures of 36 of the 37 candidates who filed their nominations were rejected.
Rajendra Prasad was the only President to have got two full terms and Zakir Hussain and Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed could not complete their full terms.
Since 1997, there has been contest between only two candidates - one of the ruling dispensation and the other supported by the opposition, after a change of law making it mandatory for 50 MPs to propose the candidate for the election to the highest office in the country and another 50 seconding his candidature.
In the last election in 2017, Ram Nath Kovind became the President after defeating joint opposition candidate Meira Kumar. Kovind polled 7,02,000 votes compared to Kumar's 3,67,000 out of a total of 10,69,358 votes.
with agency inputs