The 14th President of India will have to compete in a mighty race

By Mythili Mishra

Ram Nath Kovind and Meira Kumar are all set to face the Presidential polls tomorrow, the 17th of July. As India gears up for its 14th President, rewinding the happenings of the past week may hold the answer to who will lead the race.

Travelling for votes

The politicians had gone on a pan-India tour to muster support for their candidacy. Mr Kovind began his tour in his home state of Uttar Pradesh, where he has a strong foothold as the BJP won a thumping majority in the Assembly elections. He also urged the other politicians to vote across party lines to elect the first President from Uttar Pradesh.

Similarly, Meira Kumar touched down in her native Patna. A major hurdle for her is Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) supporting her rival. Nitish Kumar notably left for Rajgir during her visit, while she was supposed to meet him and ask for his support. The ‘Bihar ki beti’, however, has the full support of Nitish’s coalition partner, Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD.

The math behind the victory

One must not, however, attach much significance to the election campaigning. In India, the President is elected by an electoral college consisting of all the elected members of Parliament (MPs) and elected members of State Legislative Assemblies (MLAs). Since almost every voter is inevitably affiliated to a political party, the voting is along party lines.

The electoral college consists of 4,896 electors. The total value of MP votes is 5,49,408 votes and the total value of MLA votes is 5,49,474. The minimum number required to elect the President is a simple majority, which is 5,49,442.

Taking sides

However, due to the nature of the secret ballot, legislators may vote according to their conscience, which may fail the pre-poll predictions. With 62% votes supposedly behind him, including the support of opposition parties such as Janata Dal (United), Telangana Rashtra Samithi, AIADMK and Biju Janata Dal, Mr Kovind is the likely winner.

Opposition parties such as the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Nationalist Congress Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Trinamool Congress, and Samajwadi Party have joined in a gathbandhan to support Meira Kumar.

Ideology as the trump card

Starved for numbers due to electoral setbacks across the country, the Opposition is keen to make the battle an ideological one. Meira Kumar, for instance, began her campaign at Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat to honour Mahatma Gandhi.

As an extension of this, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, former Governor as well as Mahatma Gandhi and C. Rajagopalachari’s grandson, was nominated as the Opposition’s Vice President nominee. He called himself “apolitical” and a “citizen candidate”.

What’s in it for the parties?

While the President is popularly called an ‘ornamental head’, he has the ‘pocket veto’ wherein he refuses to sign a bill and it thus never gets passed. A power such as this becomes important as a check on unlimited governmental power, especially with the withering away of the Opposition. If Mr Kovind becomes President, the BJP’s legislation would hardly have to encounter any roadblocks. On the other hand, Ms Kumar winning the Presidency would hinder that.

On 20th July, India will have a new President. How the polity will change on that day depends on who ascends to the Raisina Hill.

Featured Image Source: Visual Hunt