With President Ram Nath Kovind’s tenure coming to an end on July 24, the Election Commission of India stated on Thursday that voting will take place on July 18 and the ballots will be counted on July 21. The ruling BJP-led NDA and the opposition parties are yet to announce their candidates.
It is a given conclusion that the NDA’s nominee, who has roughly 48% of the vote in the electoral college, will win the Presidential election with the aid of some friendly parties like Odisha’s BJD and Andhra Pradesh’s YSRCP. The opposition, on the other hand, is working hard to secure a rematch with the previous election.
As part of her efforts to select a consensus candidate, Congress President Sonia Gandhi spoke with West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC leader Mamata Banerjee and NCP chief Sharad Pawar. She has already communicated with other leaders, including CPM leader Sitaram Yechury. Gandhi reportedly assured the leaders that Mallikarjun Kharge, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, would be her party’s election point person.
According to sources in the Opposition camp, talks are underway among like-minded parties to select a compromise candidate. However, unlike in 2017, the opposition is deeply divided. “There will undoubtedly be a competition. And we’ll put forward a candidate who is acceptable to everyone,” a senior Opposition leader added. Top leaders from the Congress, Trinamool Congress, NCP, Shiv Sena, and the Left parties, according to sources, have exchanged notes. There has yet to be a formal meeting organised.
“We’re talking on the phone right now.” Another leader stated, “Our candidate would be a politician.” However, there is a great deal of mistrust among the various groups. Last time, the SP backed former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, the consensus Opposition candidate; this time, it would be interesting to observe how the party reacts.
At Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar, Election Commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey, and Senior Deputy Election Commissioner Dharmendra Sharma held a press conference to announce the Presidential election timetable. (PTI)
The AAP, which is in power in Punjab and Delhi, is in a similar situation. The AAP has been at odds with the Congress for nearly a year, exchanging insults and attacks on a daily basis. It doesn’t have much of a choice because the party is also vehemently opposed to the BJP. The TRS of K Chandrashekar Rao is also at odds with the Congress. The TMC and the Left bloc are at odds as well.
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If the Opposition wants to put up a united and formidable struggle, it must choose a name that is acceptable to a larger proportion of its members. The candidate would not be from the Congress or the TMC, according to at least one Opposition leader. “Backroom channels are seeking to bring all like-minded parties on board with competing at the very least.” “The names will be revealed later,” a leader of the Left stated.
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The ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is also keeping its cards close to its breast. Senior BJP leaders are already in contact with friendly parties like the YSRCP and the BJD, according to BJP sources. The BJP appears to be confident in gaining their support in order to ensure that its nominee has a smooth ride. Out of the current strength of 772 members in both Houses, the BJP alone has 392 MPs, omitting the four nominated Rajya Sabha members who are unable to vote.
The NDA has 48 percent of the vote (BJP 42 percent, allies 6%), and the Congress-led UPA has 24 percent, based on the current strength of the parties in Parliament and state legislatures (excluding the 57 vacant Rajya Sabha seats). The Trinamool Congress has 5.4 percent of the vote, the YSRCP has 4%, the BJD has 2.85 percent, the Left parties have 2.5 percent, and the rest of the parties have roughly 12% of the vote.
The Congress has 13.5 percent of the vote in the UPA, while allies such as the DMK, Shiv Sena, NCP, JMM, and smaller parties such as the Muslim League, VCK, RSP, and MDMK have 10.5 percent. Despite the fact that the current NDA is only a few seats short of a majority, the BJP is counting on the YSRCP, the BJD, and a few other parties to back its nominee. In the previous fortnight, both Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy and his Odisha colleague Naveen Patnaik met Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While Patnaik met with Prime Minister Modi on May 30, Reddy met with him last week.
According to the Election Commission’s schedule, the deadline for nominations is June 29 and the election will be held on July 21.
At a press briefing in New Delhi, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar remarked, “The Commission has agreed to follow all Covid precautions and protocols on election day.”
The election will be held using a proportional representation system with a single transferable vote. “An MP’s vote will be worth 700 points. Those in preventive detention can vote, whereas those in prison must ask for parole and then vote if granted,” Kumar explained.
MLAs received a total of 5,43,231 votes in the 16th Presidential Election. MPs have a total vote value of 5,43,200. The total number of elector votes is 10,86,431.
The elector has the option of marking as many preferences as there are candidates. While the first preference must be marked in order for the ballot paper to be legitimate, the following preferences are optional. When the ballot paper is handed over to the electors in the polling station, the Commission also provides them with a special pen for marking their votes.
“The Commission will provide specific pens for marking the vote.” When the ballot paper is handed over, the designated official will hand the pen to the electors in the polling station. Electors are required to use only this pen to mark their ballots and not any other pen. “Voting with any other pen will result in the vote being invalidated at the time of counting,” Kumar explained.
MLAs are anticipated to vote in their respective state capitals, while MPs are expected to vote in Parliament House. Kumar stated that the Returning Officer for the elections will be the Secretary General of the Rajya Sabha.
“The Commission has also decided to appoint Assistant Returning Officers in all state capitals, including the National Capital Territory of Delhi and the Union Territory of Puducherry, to plan the poll and transport ballot boxes and other important election materials to and from the Election Commission.” In the event that the Assistant Returning Officer is unavailable for whatever reason, a second Assistant Returning Officer will be appointed,” Kumar explained.