On June 15 this year, the Election Commission announced the date for the election of the 16th President of India. As per rules, the election must be held before the expiry of the term of the incumbent President.
Given that President Ram Nath Kovind will vacate his office on July 24, the Election Commission has fixed the date of the election as July 18, 2022. The Opposition has declared Yashwant Sinha as the unanimous Presidential candidate while the BJP-led NDA has fielded tribal leader Draupadi Murmu the former governor of Jharkhand.
The votes for the Presidential election will be conducted on July 21 this year. It must be mentioned that the President of India is indirectly elected by the people through its elected representatives.
Article 54 of the Indian Constitution states, “The President shall be 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.”
As such, the polling takes place in the Parliament House, State Legislative Assemblies and the Union territories of Puducherry and Delhi. A total of 4896 elected representatives, including 4120 MLAs and 776 MPs (543 from Lok Sabha and 233 from Rajya Sabha) will take part in the election.
The polling is held through a system of proportional representation and a single transferable vote system (explained in detail later).
The nomination process
A candidate, willing to contest for the post of President, must meet the eligibility criteria. He must be a citizen of India, should be above 35 years of age and should not hold any Office of Profit under the Government of India or that of any State.
Such an eligible candidate will require the backing of 50 proposers and 50 seconders. It implies that he must file his nomination along with the signatures of any 50 members of the 4896 elected representatives (proposers).
The candidate will also need the support of 50 additional members of the electoral college (seconders). The concept of proposers and seconders was introduced in 1974 by the Election Commission to prevent candidates with low chances of winning from filing nominations.
Interestingly, an elected representative can serve as the proposer or seconder for only 1 candidate.
The voting mechanism
Unlike direct elections, a vote of an MP or MLA is not counted as one. The value is determined based on the population of a State in accordance with the Census data of 1971.
Value of a vote of an MLA = Total population of a particular State (1971 census)/ Total members in the State Assembly X 1000
For instance, Uttar Pradesh had a population of 83,849,905 in 1971 and has 403 MLAs in the Vidhan Sabha. Hence, the formula can be re-written as (83849905/403 X 1000). Thus, the vote of each MLA from Uttar Pradesh comes to around 208.
As evident from the formula, the value of the vote of an MLA is higher in a more populous state as compared to a state with a scanty population. This explains why the vote value of MLAs in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh stands at 7 and 8 respectively. This is also known as proportional representation.
Now, the total value of votes for the state of Uttar Pradesh = Value of each vote of an MLA X Total number of MLAs i.e. 208 X 403 = 83824.
When the same process is repeated for 29 States and 2 Union territories, we get the sum total of the vote value of all MLAs as 5,49,495.
Value of the vote of each MP = (Sum of the Total value of MLA votes/ Total MPs) =5,49,495/776 = 708
Thus, the total vote value of all 776 MPs = 708 X 776 = 5,49,408
As such, the total vote value of the Electoral college = the Sum of the Total vote of all MLAs and MPs = 5,49,495+ 5,49,408 =10,98,903
It must be mentioned that the above calculations include the total vote value of MLAs of Jammu and Kashmir. Reportedly, the newly formed Union Territory has not been included in the Electoral College for the 2022 Presidential elections.
The counting of votes
A Presidential candidate is elected based on a single transferable voting system, which is exercised through a secret ballot. Under this system, the members of the Electoral College rank candidates in the order of their preference.
If there are 7 candidates in the fray, then the electors will rank them in their order of preference. In any case, they must provide their first preference else the vote will be declared invalid.
If an elector does not provide preferences other than the first, his vote will still be considered valid. To determine the winner, the total number of valid votes is divided by 2 and 1 is added to the total.
Assuming that there are 5 lakh valid votes, a Presidential candidate will require at least [(5,00,000/2) +1] =2,50,001 votes. A candidate with the minimum number of votes is eliminated first. However, the votes cast in his favour are not discarded and instead transferred to the other candidates (based on the second preference of the electors).
If a candidate manages to reach the vote quota, he is declared the winner. However, if the vote quota is not achieved, then, the candidate with the least number of votes is again eliminated and his votes are transferred to other candidates (based on the third preference of the electors).
During the 2017 Presidential elections, the number of valid votes cast was 10,69,358. As such the vote quota was [(1069358/2)+1] =5,34,680. Given that Ram Nath Kovind received 7,02,044 votes, he was declared the winner.
BJP’s current Presidential candidate Draupadi Murmu can secure up to 5,39,827 votes in the upcoming polls, assuming that all MLAs and MPs in the NDA alliance vote for her. The vote value of all NDA MPs stands at 3,23,556 while that of its MLAs is around 2,16,271.
These figures exclude any increment in total votes by way of cross-voting from the Opposition quarters. The NDA alliance is reportedly 9,625 votes short of the halfway mark. However, it is unlikely to be an issue due to proportional representation and a single transferable voting system. Also, with Naveen Patnaik’s open support to Draupadi Murmu, the BJD MLAs and MPs are also likely to vote for her.