What we can tell of Modi's choice as next President of India

We will know by July 20.

 |  3-minute read |   08-06-2017
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It is now certain that the country will have a new President on July 20. President Pranab Mukherjee's term expires on July 24 and all indications are that he will not get a second term, with the ruling dispensation intent on electing one of its own as the next President of the Republic.

Sources in the President's office say he is now in a "winding down" phase, the farewell calls have begun and he is looking forward to beginning his post retirement life at 10, Rajaji Marg, the bungalow that was once occupied by his predecessor, APJ Abdul Kalam.

Given the way the numbers are stacked up in the electoral college, the ruling dispensation has a distinct advantage and unless there is a dramatic shift of loyalties, it is almost certain that the BJP will for the first time in the country's history have a President of its own choice.

The President of India is elected by an electoral college comprising 776 elected MPs of both Houses of Parliament and 4,120 elected MLAs. The total value of the electoral college votes is 10,98,882, with MPs accounting for 5,49,408, and the value of the MLA votes being 5,49,474.  

Each vote, whether that of an MP or MLA, has value depending on the size of the state or electorate.  The value of an MP's vote is 708, while that of an MLA's depends on the size of the state he or she represents.

Only elected MPs can vote in the presidential elections; nominated MPs cannot because they are nominated directly by the President. Voting takes place via a secret ballot and theoretically the elected representatives are free to vote for a candidate of their choice without fear of being penalised by their respective parties as there is no provision for a whip being issued by the party.

For now, both the ruling combine as well as the Opposition are yet to come out with the name of their presidential candidate. For a while it appeared that both sides might agree to giving Mukherjee a second term, but with the NDA unwilling to give up the opportunity of electing its own candidate as the next President, an election for the post appears inevitable.

sharad1_060817110117.jpgSharad Yadav's name is doing the rounds. Photo: India Today

Unless of course the ruling combine decides to reach out to the Opposition to evolve a consensus. Given how things stand, the chances of that happening are somewhat remote.

Both sides have for now chosen to keep their cards close to their chests as far as the names are concerned. The Opposition has made it clear that it will put up a joint candidate, and while the names of Gopal Gandhi and Sharad Yadav have been spoken about, no formal decision has been taken so far.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar's name was initially bandied about but he has emphatically ruled out contesting the elections.

From the government's side, the Prime Minister is true to style keeping everyone guessing, though it has done little dampen the speculation about the identity of the ruling combine's candidate. The names that are being talked about are that of Union minister Venkaiah Naidu, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, Jharkhand governor Draupadi Murmu and former Gujarat CM Anandiben Patel.

The final call of course will be that of Modi, and given how he has surprised everybody with his choice of chief ministers, the next President may possibly be somebody who is not being spoken about.

Also read: Why PM Modi won’t pick any of these 7 leaders for president of India's post 


Javed M Ansari Javed M Ansari @javedmansari

The writer is a senior journalist and political analyst.

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