15 July, New Delhi
With just ten days to go before President Pranab Mukherjee’s term expires, the stage is set for the voting in presidential election on Monday for a poll that is tilted in the favour of the ruling BJP-led NDA coalition.
The NDA can breathe easy as the numbers are stacked in its favour to comfortably send its nominee Ram Nath Kovind, a Dalit leader of BJP who hails from rural Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh and who had been Bihar Governor for the past three years, to Rashtrapati Bhawan.
Kovind was the surprise choice of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the choice turned out to be an ace up his sleeve as his candidature elicited support from Janata Dal (U) of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who broke away from the ranks of the Opposition in extending support of his party to Kovind.
The combined Opposition candidate and former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar has appealed to the legislators to vote according to their conscience. Ms Kumar is daughter of the country’s veteran Dalit leader Babu Jagjivan Ram who had served as Union Minister for several decades in the Congress governments at the Centre.
Voting in the Presidential polls will take place from 1000 hrs to 1700 hrs and counting of votes will take place from 1100 on July 20. The country’s 14th President will assume office at Rashtrapati Bhavan on July 25. The President is chosen by an electoral college comprising all the MPs and MLAs in the country, with weighted votes apportioned.
The NDA has about 50 per cent of vote share but is comfortably placed to get its nominee elected.TRS and BJD have already declared their support to Kovind and YSR Congress, headed by Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, has also reiterated its support to the BJP candidate.
The electoral college has a vote value of 10.98 lakh and comprises 4,896 electors – elected members of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and elected members of legislative assemblies of states and union territories.
According to the Election Commission, since the technology for proportional election and single transferable vote is yet to be developed in the electronic voting machines, the presidential election would take place through ballot papers.
While announcing the schedule, the then Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi had said the electors would be allowed to fill the form in any of the recognised Indian languages and would have to mark the preference in figures only.
“The elector can have as many preferences as the number of candidates, but the marking of the first preference is compulsory for the ballot to be valid. The other preferences will be optional,” he stated.
For marking the votes, the Election Commission will provide special pens to the electors in the polling booth along with the ballot paper. “Only these pens can be used for marking the votes. The use of any other pen would render the ballot invalid.”
Lok Sabha Secretary General has been appointed returning officer for the presidential election. Zaidi had also pointed out that political parties cannot issue any whip to their MPs and MLAs in the matter of voting.