17 major opposition parties held a second meeting yesterday in New Delhi to discuss their candidates for the 2022 Presidential polls that are scheduled to be held on 18th July. The meeting was hosted by West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress president Mamata Banerjee. Major parties in attendance included the Indian National Congress (INC), Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPIM), Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), and regional parties such as Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Samajwadi Party (SP), and Janata Dal-Secular (JDS), amongst others. Some notable names missing from the meeting were the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), which is led by Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao. Industry experts wonder if the meeting is testing opposition unity ahead of the 2024 national elections. While the opposition parties came up with a list of candidates, the first three choices in their list, including NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, have so far declined the offer. Former Union minister Yashwant Sinha finally accepted the opposition’s offer as its joint candidate for the presidential polls. On the other hand, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is in majority in the Lok Sabha and close to a majority with its allies in the Rajya Sabha, has an edge in the upcoming presidential polls. However, the party has not yet announced a candidate for the upcoming polls.
The Presidential elections are crucial as the opposition wants to put the BJP in a difficult situation, while the BJP wants to retain its dominant position.
HOW IS THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA CHOSEN?
The President of India is indirectly elected by an electoral college consisting of the elected members of both the houses of Parliament, the elected members of the Legislative Assemblies of the 28 states, and the elected members of the legislative assemblies of the Union Territories of Delhi, Puducherry, and Jammu and Kashmir. The 12 nominated members of the Rajya Sabha are not allowed to vote in the Presidential elections. This means that 4,120 members of legislative assemblies and 776 Members of Parliament (MPs) elect the President. As per the electoral college system, the value of votes that each Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) and Member of Parliament has varies as per the population of the state. This means that the value of an MLA’s vote will vary from state to state in order to reflect the population of each state. A simple formula is used to calculate this. The total population of the state (as per the 1971 census) is divided by the total number of MLAs in the state, which is then multiplied by 1,000.
The BJP has to rely on parties like the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) led by Odisha’s Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik which has over 31,000 votes in the upcoming presidential elections.
A secret ballot under the transferable vote system is used to elect the President of India. Each MLA and MP ranks the presidential candidates in their order of preference, and the candidate with the lowest number of votes will drop out. Votes given to this candidate are then redistributed based on the next preference, and this goes on until one candidate secures the needed majority. In order to win, a candidate must have more than 50 per cent of the votes.
The election commission of India has scheduled the date for the presidential elections on 18th July, with the counting of votes to be held on 21st July. 4,809 electors comprising MPs and MLAs will vote to elect current President Ram Nath Kovind’s successor. Despite the BJP’s majority in the Lok Sabha and almost-majority in the Rajya Sabha, with an electoral college of around 10.86 lakh voters, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is slated to have around 48 per cent of the total votes, and is expected to be able to win the support of non-aligned regional parties such as the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party. Though the BJP’s equation with some of its allies has changed after the 2022 Assembly elections, it is still extremely likely that the BJP-led NDA will win the Presidential polls.
So far 15 candidates have filed their nominations for the Presidential polls since the process began on 16th June. As per the Election Commission of India (ECI), the last day to file nominations is 29th June. Even though 15 candidates have already filed their nominations, arguably, the two most important contenders will be the candidate of the ruling party (NDA) and the candidate supported by the opposition parties. Among the nominations, some candidates have contested the Presidential polls several times.
WHO ARE THE PROBABLE CANDIDATES?17 Opposition parties met on 15 June in New Delhi to decide on a joint candidate for the presidential election so that the votes are not divided amongst the opposition. Source: Wikimedia Commons
The BJP has not announced its presidential candidate yet. While it has the option of reaching a consensus with the opposition, it can also spring a surprise by fielding a random candidate like it did in 2017 with President Ramnath Kovind. Source: NDTV.com
Analysts and industry experts have suggested that the BJP-led NDA’s candidate is likely to be a surprise in line with its past patterns. As reported by OneIndia, the party is likely to meet on 21st June to discuss its Presidential candidate. This decision is being taken by a 14-member management committee comprising several Union ministers, the party’s three general secretaries, and other leaders.
Industry analysts have been talking about a few major probable candidates. One of the first names on this list is Kerala governor Arif Mohammad Khan. Khan, who has been a Union Minister, started his career as a student leader and later joined the Congress. Since then he has shifted between multiple parties, including the Janata Dal and BSP, until he finally joined the BJP in 2004, and successfully contested the Lok Sabha elections from Kaiserganj constituency. He has had a long political career and held several portfolios, ranging from energy to civil aviation.
Another major candidate from the BJP could be Draupadi Murmu, the Governor of Jharkhand. A tribal leader from Odisha, she is the only governor of Jharkhand to successfully complete a five-year term in the state. In the past, she has served as an MLA and as Minister of State for Commerce and Transport, as well as Fisheries and Animal Resources Development. Murmu is one of the first female tribal leaders to be elected as Governor of an Indian state and has championed the cause of working for the rights of the tribal population.
Senior BJP leader and former Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan’s name is also making rounds in the political corridor. Mahajan was only the second woman after Meira Kumar to be elected as the Lok Sabha speaker and was the longest-serving MP from the Indore constituency of Madhya Pradesh after she won elections consecutively from 1989 to 2019. Other major names include Chhattisgarh governor Anusulya Uikey, Karnataka Governor Thawar Chand Gehlot, Telangana governor Tamilisai Soundararajan, and Jual Oram – a tribal leader from Odisha – amongst many others.
The first and one of the most prominent names on the opposition’s list was that of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Chief and former Union Defence Minister Sharad Pawar. However, Pawar declined the nomination in a tweet. Following this, the opposition parties suggested the name of former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah. However, he also said he wanted to “respectfully” withdraw his name from consideration as he wants to continue being involved in active politics and make a “positive contribution in the service of J&K and the country.” Following this, former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi turned down the opposition’s offer to be the candidate for the polls. Major opposition parties met again in the capital on 21st June to discuss other probable candidates for the polls. After the second round of discussions, the opposition parties announced former Union minister Yashwant Sinha as its joint candidate. He has held important portfolios including Finance and External Affairs. Sinha was a member of the BJP till 2018, when he quit the party to join the TMC.
Contributing reports by Damini Mehta, Senior Research Associate at Polstrat and Arin Prabhat, Ashita Koul, Kaustav Dass, Nehla Salil, Pavitra Mohan Singh, Interns at Polstrat.