Electing an Indian President

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Who the President calls to form a government might be crucial in the 2014 polls

It has just been announced that India’s Pres- idential elections will take place on 19 July and counting of votes will be done on 22 July. Nominations can be done till 30 June, but the ruling Congress, which should decide who will win, is still wary of announcing its nominee. There are reasons for this. It needs to be certain that the person will win. And as has been recent convention, the President must be pliable to the interests of the ruling party.

Many deem this election all important because no political party is expected to have a clear mandate in 2014’s general election. Who the President calls to form a government might be crucial then.

A simple or absolute majority in Parliament won’t do to elect the President. He or she is chosen by an ‘electoral college’ comprising members of both Houses of Parliament and elected members of all state Legislative Assemblies and of Union Territories. Each nominated candidate must have at least 50 elected representatives as proposers and at least 50 other seconders. The candidate also has to pay the RBI Rs 50,000 as a security deposit.

The voting process is complicated. Every elector casts a different number of votes. The total number of votes cast by Members of Parliament must equal the total number of votes cast by state legislators. If a state is small and has fewer legislators, then each of them has a higher number of votes.

Calculating how many votes a legislator gets is even more complicated. It is arrived at by dividing the state’s population by 1,000, and dividing it again by the number of legislators from that state in the electoral college. For MPs, the total number of votes cast by all state legislators is divided by the number of members of both Houses and that’s the number of votes each member gets. Phew!