Presidential Election

Definition:  The President of Republic  of India  is the Head  of the State  of India  and the Commander-in-chief of Indian  Armed  Forces.  He is the first  citizen of India and acts as the symbol of unity, integrity and solidarity of the nation. The President is the nominal  executive (de jure executive or titular executive) who acts on the advice of council of ministers.

Constitutional Provisions:

Article 52:-“There shall be a President of India”

Article 53: -Executive power

Article 54:- Election of President (Electoral College)

Article 55:- Manner of Election of President

Article 57:-Eligibility for re-election

Article 58:-Qualification for election as President

Article 62:- Holding election to fill Vacancy

Why   in   the   news?

This year the 15th presidential election will be held in India on July 17.

The main candidates are: Mr. Ram Nath Kovind from NDA led by BJP & Mrs. Meera Kumar led by opposition party Congress (UPA).

Election Of President :-

Qualifications for Election as President:-

A  person  to  be  eligible  for  election  as  President  should  fulfill  the  following qualifications:

  1. He should be a citizen of India.
  2. He should have completed 35 years of age.
  3. He should be qualified for election as a member of the Lok Sabha.
  4. He should not hold any office of profit under the Union government or any State government or any local authority or any other public authority.

Exceptions:- Certain office holders, however, are permitted to stand as Presidential candidates. These are

  •     The current Vice-President
  • The Governor of any state
  • A Minister of the Union or of any state (including Prime Minister and Chief Ministers)

Nomination :-

The nomination of a candidate for election to the office of President must be subscribed by at  least  50 electors  as proposers and  50 electors as seconders. Every candidate has to make a security deposit of Rs 15,000 in the Reserve Bank of India. The security deposit is liable to be forfeited in case the candidate fails to secure one-sixth of the votes polled.

Eligibility for re-election:-

The president is elected for a term  of 5 years. He is eligible to be re-elected  for the same office for unlimited  times.

Electoral College:-

The electoral college consist the following:

  • the elected members of both Houses of Parliament
  • the elected members of   the Legislative assemblies of the States
  • the elected members of the legislative assemblies of UT’s of Delhi and Pudducherry

The electoral college does not include the following:

  •   the nominated members of both the House of Parliament
  • the nominated members of state legislative assemblies
  • the members (both elected and nominated) of the state Legislative Councils.

Manner   of Election of President :-

The President is elected not directly  by the people but by members of electoral college. The President is elected by the system of proportional representation by the means of single transferable vote.

How is the value of votes calculated?

The value of votes of electors (voters) is basically determined on the  basis  of population of the States. Since population figures are dynamic and keep changing every year, it has been decided through the 84th Constitutional Amendment, that until the population figures for the first census after 2026 are published (in other words, 2031 census), the population of the States for the purpose of this calculation will mean the population as per the 1971 census.

The Process for calculating  the Value of M.P and MLA vote:-

For the 2017 Presidential election, the total  value of the MLA votes is 5,49,495. The  Value  of  each  vote of  MLA is  maximum   in  Uttar   Pradesh (208)  and minimum  in Sikkim (7).

For the 2017 Presidential election, the total value of the MP votes is 5,49,408.The value of each vote of MP is 708.

The value of a MP vote is substantially higher  than  the value of a MLA vote. It is in fact 3.5 times the value of a MLA’s vote in Uttar  Pradesh where  the value of MLA vote is maximum.

The Election Process:-

A ballot paper is given to each voter with the names of the contesting candidates, green  ballot  paper for MPs  & Pink  ballot  paper  for MLAs. This election is conducted   using   secret   ballot.   This  election  happens  through  the   Single Transferable Vote (STV).   Hence each voter can mark as many preferences, as the  number  of  candidates  contesting  the  election.  These  preferences for  the candidates are to be marked by the voter, by marking the figures 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on, against the names of the candidates, in the order of preference.

The winning candidate has to secure the required quota of votes to be declared elected, i.e., 50% of valid first preferential votes polled +1.This system ensures that the successful candidate is returned by the absolute majority of votes.

Counting  Process:

First round of counting:

  • After the valid ballot papers are segregated from the invalid ones, the valid ballot  papers  are  distributed among  the  contesting  candidates on the basis of first preference marked on each of them for those candidates.
  •  The value of votes in favor of each contesting candidate is ascertained by multiplying  the number of ballot papers  on which the first preference is marked for him, by the value of vote which each ballot paper of a member (MP or MLA) represents.
  • The total votes secured  by each contesting  candidate are then ascertained by adding  together  the value of votes secured  by him from the MPs and the MLAs. This is the first round of counting.

The value of votes secured by each contesting candidate in the first round of counting is added up to determine the total value of valid votes polled at the election. If any of the candidates receives the required number of votes in the first round, he is declared a winner.

If  there  is  not  an  absolute   majority  then  the  least  preferred  candidate is eliminated   from  the  election  and  his  ballots  are distributed among  others based  on  the  second  preference.  This  process  continues  till  a  candidate  is declared elected.

Dispute in the Presidential Election:-

Article 71 stipulates that all doubts arising out of election of the president will be decided by the “Supreme Court”. There can be no dispute  on vacancy  in an electoral college.

A  petition  regarding  the  dispute  in  election  can  be  filed  by  any   of  the presidential candidates. A petition can be filed by any 20 or more  electors as joint  petitioners. Petition should be filed within  30 days  of declaration of the result.

Historical Background ( constitutional assembly debates):-

Direct Vs Indirect Election :-

Some members of the Constituent Assembly criticised the system  of  indirect election  for  the  President  as  undemocratic  and  proposed  the  idea  of  direct election. However, the Constitution makers  chose the  indirect  election due to the following reasons.

  •  In harmony with the parliamentary system of government envisaged in the Constitution.
  • The President is only a nominal  executive and the real powers are vested in the council of ministers headed by the Prime minister. It would have been anomalous  to have the President elected directly  by the people and not give him any real power.
  • Very  costly,  time  and  energy  consuming   due  to  the  vast  size  of  the electorate. This is unwarranted keeping in view that he is only a symbolic head.

Proportional Representation Vs First Past the POST:-

The FPTP mode of election also known as “straight voting system”, a candidate getting the support of the numerically largest  group  is elected, although the combined strength of all other candidates representing different other parties may far out-number his supporters. The result is that the elected candidate can not  be said  to represent the  opinion  of the  majority of the electorate as a whole.

Therefore Proportional Representation system was chosen keeping in mind the diversity of India.  The aim of proportional representation is to give every division   of   opinion   among   electors   corresponding   representation   in national  or regional assemblies.

Problems in Selections of Candidates:-

Contest Vs consensus:

The President is the conscious  keeper  of the Nation. The President enjoys a special kind of legitimacy. Being the symbol of state he/she is keenly observed in India and abroad. The  person  occupying  the  highest  constitutional post should be a person  of high morale  who is able to maintain the dignity and integrity  of it. That is why a president should be elected with consensus or at least  government should  make  some  efforts to  take  the  opposition  into confidence.

Barring the election of Mr.N.S.Reddy (unanimously elected) all the presidential elections were contested. Though the ceremonial in status but every party takes this election seriously which leads to the ideological battle between parties.

Contest:

Pros:

  • Good for healthy  functioning  of democracy.  The arena  of political recruitment  is   broad.    The   eminent   person   from   non   political background can also be elected.
  • A more efficient person is elected because of healthy competition.

Cons:

  • Most of the times the opinion  of minor regional  parties  is completely ignored.  The candidate having the support of parliament largest party wins. There is a threat of President acting as Rubber stamp  of political parties.
  • The President lacks  the  widest  acceptability and  honor which is not good in case of the highest constitutional post.

Consensus:-

Pros:-

  • In  harmony  with  India’s  diversity.  This  can  increase  the  trust  of opposition in the government which can lead to smooth functioning of parliament.
  • It can act as a healing effect on the fault lines in the society. The Person from  the  minority  community   and  marginal  sections  can  also  be elected.

Cons:-

  • It can be interpreted as the weakness of opposition  which is unable to check the misuse of power by the government.
  • Restrict  the arena  of political recruitment

Being the Head of State the President should have the widest possible acceptability.   A   diverse   country    like   India   cannot   function   without consensus-building. The “winner takes it all” approach can lead to a situation where  the views  of an  individual  can  ride  roughshod  over the interests of different segments.

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