Ram Nath Kovind: The Road to Rashtrapati Bhavan: Here’s how India will elect Ram Nath Kovind’s successor

India will know who the successor to Ram Nath Kovind will be on July 21. With The Election Commission declaring the dates for upcoming Presidential polls, the spotlight now shifts to July 21- the day votes, if needed, will be counted. The winner will then be sworn in to office by the Chief Justice of India. The term of President Ram Nath Kovind ends on July 24.

An explainer on India’s 16th presidential election:

Is the President elected the same way like our parliamentarians?

No. The President of India is elected by the members of an Electoral College consisting of – the elected members of both Houses of Parliament and the elected members of the Legislative Assemblies of the States (including the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi and the Union Territory of Puducherry), according to Article 55 of the Constitution.

The members nominated to either House of Parliament or the Legislative Assemblies of State including NCT of Delhi and UT of Puducherry are not eligible to be included in the Electoral College.

In 2017, the total number of members in the Electoral College was 4,896 (Rajya Sabha 233; Lok Sabha 543; State Assemblies 4,120). For 2022, the total number of members is 4,809 (MPs – 776; MLAs – 4,033), the Election Commission of India (EC) said. The total vote value is 10,86,431 (MPs – 5,43,200) (MLAs – 5,43,231).

Secret ballot

The election shall be held in accordance with the system of ‘Proportional Representation’ by means of the single transferable vote and the voting at such election shall be by secret ballot.

The ballot paper does not contain any election symbol. There will be two columns in the ballot paper. Column 1 of the ballot paper contains the heading “Name of Candidate” and column 2 contains the heading “order of preference”.

Each Elector shall have as many preferences as there are contesting candidates, but no ballot paper shall be considered invalid solely on the ground that all such preferences are not marked.

The importance of Nitish Kumar in BJP’s overall calculus

While the NDA is reasonably well placed for the election, Opposition parties have indicated their intention to put up joint candidates for the two posts. Nitish Kumar has supported presidential candidates fielded by rival parties earlier. In 2012, he had supported the Opposition’s Pranab Mukherjee for President, despite being a part of the NDA at the time. In 2017, when he was in the Grand Alliance with the RJD and Congress, he had chosen to support the NDA candidate for President, Ram Nath Kovind, instead of Opposition nominee Meira Kumar.

Will President Ram Nath Kovind get a second term?

So far no political party has named its choice for the top constitutional post. Speculation is rife that President Kovind will not get a second term in office, and the government is likely to announce the name of the new candidate. No President, with the sole exception of first President Rajendra Prasad, has got a second term in office. PM Narendra Modi is known for springing surprises, thereby keeping everyone guessing.

Will it be an easy outing for NDA?

Despite firming up its numbers with recent wins in four states – Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur – the BJP was 1.2 percentage points shy of the 50 per cent vote share it needs to select its president. This opened up opportunity for the opposition parties to rally behind a rival candidate. While the BJP still appears to be in a comfortable position , there’s also a move to field an opposition candidate with the support of NDA ally and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar.

Can verdict UP 2022 dent BJP’s math?

The gap to the halfway mark though has widened after the BJP lost seats in multiple states. For example, the 312 seats that it had in Uttar Pradesh in 2017 has fallen to 255. An Uttar Pradesh MLA’s vote has the highest value at 208 (assigned based on the population of states). But, the BJP has also gained 60 MPs in both houses since 2017. The party is also expected to gain more in the Rajya Sabha as 75 seats will go to polls before the presidential election. MP votes have a value of 708.

The all important 50-member cushion

The nomination papers will have to be delivered in Election Commission office, in New Delhi, and would need at least 50 members of electoral college as proposers and another 50 as seconders. The security deposit was increased from Rs2,500 to Rs15,000 in 1997, when the total numbers of proposers and seconders were also increased from 10 each earlier.The move aimed at weeding out non-serious candidates in these polls that once saw nominations getting rejected for 36 out of total 37 candidates.

How votes are calculated

The Constitution also stipulates that there shall be uniformity, as far as practicable, in the scale of representation of the different States at the election (Article 55). The total value of votes of all members of each State Assembly is worked out by multiplying the number of elective seats in the Assembly by the number of votes for each member. The total value of votes of all the States added together is divided by the total number of elected members of Parliament (Lok Sabha + Rajya Sabha) to get the value of votes per each Member of Parliament.

A quick recap

In 2017, the presidential polls were held on July 17 and the counting took place on July 20. Ram Nath Kovind, who was elected as President of India, got 7,02,044 votes, while his opponent, the joint Opposition candidate, Meira Kumar, got 3,67,314 out of a total of 10,69,358.

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