The Election Commission has declared that the 15th indirect Presidential Election will be held on 17th July to elect the 14th President of the Republic of India, as incumbent President Pranab Mukherjee’s term ends on 24th July 2017. The counting of votes will be carried out on 20th July, five days prior to the end of the current president’s term. In India, an outgoing President is eligible for re-election.
The President of India has a number of powers vested in him. Article 53 of the Constitution declares the President of India as the Executive head. He is also the Head of the State and Supreme Commander of the armed forces. He also enjoys a number of Legislative, Executive, Judicial, Financial, Pardoning and Emergency powers.
Article 58 of the Constitution says, to be eligible to be nominated to contest the election for the office of the President of India, a candidate must fulfil these mandatory qualifications.
- Must be an Indian citizen
- Must be at least 35 years of age
- Must not hold any office of profit under the Central or State or any other local governments. However, State Governors and State or Union Ministers are exempted from this rule.
- Must meet all the requirements to be a Lok Sabha member and not be an undischarged insolvent or of unsound mind.
In India, it is essential for a minimum 50 eligible voters to propose the candidature of a presidential candidate and for another 50 eligible voters to second the proposal of his candidacy. A voter can only propose or second one candidate. Presidents are indirectly elected via an electoral college. Indian citizens do not directly participate in the presidential election. The Electoral College consists of people’s representatives i.e., the elected members of the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) and Lower House (Lok Sabha) of the Parliament, Legislative Assemblies of the States and the Union Territories (Delhi and Puducherry). The members of the Parliament and Legislative Assemblies (MPs and MLAs) are directly elected by the people and they represent the public and can directly vote for the president on behalf of their constituencies.
The Presidential election is quite different from the general elections as it is an indirect election and there is a significant difference in the value of votes that are cast by the voters. In a general election, the vote of every citizen is given equal value, i.e. counted as one. However, in a Presidential election, the value assigned to an MP’s vote varies from an MLA’s vote. Additionally, the value of the MLA votes differs in different states as well. The Election Commission clarifies the total value of all votes prior to the election to avoid any confusion later on.
The valuation of such votes is decided on the basis of population density and distribution of particular states to eliminate bias and ensure equal representation. The 84th Constitutional Amendment recognised that the population figures of a state are dynamic and may change from time to time and therefore, consensually accepted to use the population data from the 1971 census till the 2031 census data is published. For the 2017 Presidential Election, the total number of eligible voters is 4896 out of which 776 are MPs (Lok Sabha = 543, Rajya Sabha= 233) and 4120 are MLAs. The total value of the MP and MLA votes for the 2017 Presidential Election are 5,49,408 and 5,49,495 respectively. The value allotted to an MP vote is significantly higher than the value of an MLA vote. For an estimate on the vote valuation of MLAs from different states, you can refer to the table provided below:
The Presidential Election is a secret ballot procedure and starts with distribution of ballot papers to MPs and MLAs. For the purpose of differentiation, MPs are given green ballot papers while the MLAs are given pink coloured papers. The voting takes place by a process called Single Transferable Vote (STV). The STV is a voting system that was first developed in the UK to facilitate proportional representation through ranked voting, wherein, every voter has a single vote and has to indicate his most preferred candidates in terms of ranks. If a voter’s first preference candidate is not elected, then his vote is transferred to his second most preferred candidate and so on.
There is a minimum amount of votes that a candidate needs to acquire in order to be elected as the President of the Republic of India. At present, the required quota of votes is set at 50% of valid first preferential votes polled +1. The value of votes is ascertained by segregating the valid votes from the invalid ones and multiplying the valid ones by the exact value that the elector’s vote represents. However, if candidates fail to secure the required amount of votes in the first round of counting then the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated and his votes are transferred to the elector’s second most preferred choice of candidate and so on. This procedure is carried on till a candidate secures the required quota of votes.
After the election
The elected candidate is sworn in as the President of India by the Chief Justice of India for a term of five years. In the absence of the Chief Justice of India, the senior most- judge of the Supreme Court administers the oath ceremony in which the newly elected President subscribes that s/he shall protect, preserve and defend the Constitution of India. However, a President may leave office before his term ends under two circumstances, he can either demit by giving in writing his resignation to the Vice- President or under Article 61, if he is found guilty of violation of the constitution, he may be impeached by the Parliament. The impeachment procedure may be started in either House of the Parliament and must be passed by at least two- third of the total members of both the House. Article 71 allows inquiry by the Supreme Court in case of any discrepancies or disputes in relation to the election of a President. In case, the office of the President falls vacant before the term ends, the Vice- President discharges the duties of the President till a new President is elected.
According to Article 57 of the Constitution, once a President completes five years in office, he is eligible to contest election for a second term. There is no limit on the number of times, a person may hold office of the President of India, unlike, in the United States where the President can hold office for only two consecutive terms.