Polling, to elect the 14th President of India, is underway. The battle is between NDA's nominee Ram Nath Kovind and UPA's candidate Meira Kumar. However, media reports have been suggesting that Kovind is expected to garner about 63 percent of the total votes in the electoral college.
If the prediction comes true after the results are announced on 20 July, it will be for the first time that the NDA will have its own candidate in the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Kovind's nomination came as a surprise because, apart from other names, Jharkhand Governor Draupadi Murmu was considered to be the favourite among senior BJP and NDA leaders. The names of external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan were also making the rounds.
Political commentators have called Kovind's nomination to India's top constitutional post as BJP's ploy to shed its upper-caste image and woo the Dalit community, especially in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
While Kovind's Dalit background may have been a reason for his elevation, the former Bihar Governor can also help the NDA to get his assent on key bills, especially through the ordinances route.
Ordinances are issued by the Centre when the Parliament is not in session. According to Article 123 of the Indian Constitution, the president can give his assent to an ordinance if he or she is satisfied that there is a need for such an action. Having a NDA nominee as the president can help the ruling alliance push through its ordinances.
Ordinances have been a way for the NDA to circumvent the Rajya Sabha, where it lacks a majority. Between 2014 and August 2016, the Modi government issued 22 ordinances to bypass the Upper House of the Parliament. A 2015 Firstpost article noted:
"The compulsion of the Modi government appears to be its poor strength in the Rajya Sabha. While it can pass bills in the parliament because of its brute majority, they will face a roadblock in the upper house. The solution to such a situation is not bypassing the system itself, but to take everybody along. Why pass legislation without the will of the people?"
It is to be noted that the BJP-led NDA is only expected to get a majority in the Upper House by 2018.
While presidents are generally considered rubber stamps in India, there have been times when the president has refused to toe the government line and reserved bills for reconsideration, There are two prominent instances of the president refusing assent to a bill.
In 1987, the then president Zail Singh refused to give his assent to the Indian Post Office (Amendment) Bill, creating friction between him and Rajiv Gandhi. Two decades later, in 2006, APJ Abdul Kalam refused to approve the Office of Profit bill, passed by the Congress-led UPA government.
Not only bills, but presidents have in the past also rejected Centre's call for imposing President's Rule in states. In 1998, then president KR Narayanan sent back a proposal from the caretaker IK Gujral government to impose President's Rule in Uttar Pradesh, which was then ruled by BJP's Kalyan Singh.
The NDA government would like Kovind in the Rashtrapati Bhavan to pass bills like Gujarat's GCOCA bill, which had been rejected by Kalam, Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee. First passed by the Narendra Modi-led Gujarat government in 2003, the bill has repeatedly been rejected over concerns regarding certain aspects of the bill.
Kovind was a practising advocate in the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court before he jumped into the political arena. The 71-year-old had also represented India at the United Nations General Assembly in 2002. Additionally, Kovind had also been a Rajya Sabha MP between 1994 and 2006, which gives him legislative experience too.
With several key reforms, especially in the economy, yet to be taken in the next two years of the Modi government, Kovind's counsel may help the Modi government.
In the Monsoon Session this year, there are 79 bills which are to be passed in both the Houses of Parliament. With Kovind in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Modi government may look for the speedy passage of the bills.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jul 20, 2017 09:43:41 IST