The crucial Assembly elections of five states are over and with just three months left in President Pranab Mukherjee's term in office, guessing game over who will be the next President of India is already on. With an unstoppable year, as far as elections go, the BJP and the saffron brigade is all set to name it's pick for the chief of State. The elections will be held in July this year, however, let's take a quick look at how the President of India is elected and who are the key contenders for the post.
How is the President of India elected?
The President of India is elected by the voting by an electoral college consisting of the elected members of both Houses of Parliament, the elected members of the Legislative assemblies of the 29 states and the elected members of the legislative assemblies of the Union Territories of Delhi and Puducherry. However, the values of the votes cast are all not equal and various formulae are used to ensure parity of the votes by MLAs and MPs.
As of now, the electoral college comprises of 776 MPs and 4120 MLAs. The total strength of electoral college is 10,98,882 votes, wherein the halfway mark is at 5,49,442 votes.
After the landslide wins in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and BJP's new found claim on Manipur and Assam, the National Democratic Alliance is short of only 20054 votes. And the gap is easily bridgeable, given the fact that various smaller parties and individual legislators have hinted at supporting BJP veterans like Sumitra Mahajan and Lal Krishna Advani as the Presidential pick.
Also, a lot depends on how the political turmoil unfolds in Tamil Nadu, if O Panneerselvam is successful in reinstating himself as the state's chief minister, or at least wield considerable say in the post-merger AIADMK, the AIADMK is likely to back BJP's choice. All in all, chances are slim that a BJP nominee is defeated in the presidential elections 2017. Biju Janata Dal is also likely to extend support to BJP's presidential candidate, notwithstanding that the NDA needs support of only one of the two aforementioned regional parties.
Who will be India's next president?
Initial discussions within the saffron party swirled up a few names in the fray. Going by past experiences on how things work in the BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, will be most likely be entrusted with the job of picking the next President. However, the BJP is spoilt for choice. Here is a look at the top names the buzz around whom is up and around.
Lal Krishna Advani
Advani's name first cropped up as speculations did rounds that Modi would allow the veteran leader to have a poignant exit from his longstanding career in public life, by escalalting him to the top most Constitutional post in India.
Advani was not only one of the founding members of the BJP as we know it today, but is also the senior most leader in active politics with Vajpayee indisposed to shoulder any public responsibility. Besides this, one would also recall that he was the one man who stood by Modi just after the Godhra riots in 2002, when Vajpayee wanted the former to quit as Gujarat chief minister on the grounds of moral responsibility. That Advani later fell out of favours in the Modi government, and was sidelined to the margdarshak mandal is quite another matter. Surprisingly, staunch BJP opposers, such as Mamata Banarjee had also espoused Advani as the presidential pick, in case BJP decides to go with him.
However, the factor that is working against him is the recent Supreme Court order to try the veteran Hindu-right wing leader for criminal conspiracy in the Babri Mosque demolition case. The court has ordered to finish the trial in a time bound manner within two months, and a president's term spans over five years. In case he gets convicted in the case, it will only mar the Modi government's image and that's too much of a risk for him to take. Another factor that works against him is his advancing age. Advani will turn 90 in November this year.
Murli Manohar Joshi
Another BJP stalwart, the 83-year-old leader relinquished the Varanasi seat in 2014 to make way for Modi. A well-known face in Uttar Pradesh politics, he could be rewarded for his long stint with the BJP. He also has vast administrative experience in previous BJP governments and is largely popular within the ranks of BJP and RSS alike. However, like Advani, he too is named in the Babri Mosque demolition case and that might affect his chances to enter the race.
Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief's name entered the fray when Shiv Sena batted for his candidature in the presidential elections. The party said that since India is known as a Hindu country Bhagwat is the best choice for the president's post. And given the fact that in the last two Presidential elections, Shiv Sena voted for a Congress candidate, it will be interesting to see how the BJP reacts to it's ally's demands this time. Meanwhile, the right wing Hindu-outfit's leader has distanced himself from this race, stating that he is not interested in holding any posts. ""We close all doors before coming here. When we work in the Sangh, we don't go there (to such high posts). There are many Swayamsevaks up there and they know it well.... Even if in an impossible situation my name is nominated, we will not accept it," he said.
The Lok Sabha Speaker's name is also in the fray, and leaders like Mamata Banerjee have announced their support for her, in case the BJP chooses her to be it's presidential candidate. The soft spoken leader is a veteran parliamentarian and enjoys a good rapport with Modi and Shah, and also the opposition parties. She could be relieved of her present responsibilities and nominated as the President of India.
One of the most popular leaders in the Modi cabinet, Swaraj is known for her efficacy and prompt responses as the Minister of External Affairs. However, recently concerns about her health has given rise to speculations that naming her as the president will be an apt way to reward her for her contribution to the party and the Modi government while also ensuring a less active role for her in public life. Swaraj only recently suffered from renal failure after which she had to undergo a surgery.
Updated Date: Jul 25, 2017 12:24 PM