Chief Election Commissioner Naseem Zaidi announced the dates for the Presidential Election 2017 at a press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday. Zaidi said President Pranab Mukherjee's term will come to an end on 24 July and the last date of nomination for the post is 28 June. If an election is required then it will be held on 17 July, followed by counting on 20 July, he said.
A notification would be issued on 14 June, he said. If there is no consensus between the NDA and the opposition, the number of serious candidates in the fray will be clear by 1 July evening.
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The electoral college which elects the president is made up of 4,896 legislators – 776 Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha members and 4,120 MLAs.
Zaidi said members of the electoral college — comprising members of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha and state Assemblies, including Delhi and Puducherry — will be provided special pens to cast their ballot and use of any other pen will render the vote invalid.
The poll announcement has set the ball rolling for the declaration of candidates by the ruling National Democratic Alliance and the opposition parties for the country's highest elected office.
Zaidi said that Lok Sabha secretary-general Anoop Mishra will be the Returning Officer for the presidential poll and ballots will be cast in Parliament House and in the respective state Assemblies.
The counting of votes will take place in the national capital under the supervision of the Returning Officer.
The Chief Election Commissioner said presidential election will take place through secret ballot and political parties "cannot issue any whip" to their respective members of Parliaments or MLAs.
The election is held in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote.
Every elector can have as many preferences as the candidates contesting the election and the winner has to secure the required quota of votes to be declared elected — 50 percent of the valid votes plus one. Zaidi said a nomination paper has to be backed by at least 50 electors as proposers and at least 50 electors as seconders.
He said Assistant Returning Officers will be appointed in all state capitals, besides Delhi and Puducherry, to ensure smooth logistics for the election.
He said each candidate will be allowed to deploy a representative at the venue of polling.
Zaidi said members of Parliament are expected to vote in Parliament House in Delhi and the MLAs in their respective assemblies but they can vote at another polling station in case of exigency after applying to the poll panel in advance. All parliamentarians have an equal vote value of 708 while that of the MLAs depends on the population of the state.
Responding to a question, Zaidi said the election to 10 Rajya Sabha seats, postponed earlier due to presidential polls and EVM challenge held last week, would now be held after the presidential election.
He said the 10 members would be retiring after the presidential elections and are entitled to vote in the 17 July poll.
When asked whether the 20 AAP MLAs, against whom the Election Commission is hearing a petition seeking their disqualification for allegedly holding offices of profit, can vote in the polls, he said "as on today" they can vote. Originally, the case was against 21 MLAs, but one has resigned.
A total of 13 vacancies in Lok Sabha and state Assemblies will be filled up after the presidential elections, he said.
Incidentally, Zaidi is retiring on 7 July and will not be in office when the results are notified by the commission.
The presidential poll has a total of 11,04,546 votes with the BJP-led NDA's tally currently standing at about 5.38 lakh votes. NDA got the crucial support of Jagan Mohan Reddy's YSRCP, helping it to cross the majority mark.
BJP is also hopeful of getting the support of both factions of the AIADMK, which is in power in Tamil Nadu and K Chandrashekar Rao's Telugu Desam Party.
Opposition parties are considering to put up a joint candidate for the elections. Recently, leaders of 17 Opposition parties met together at Congress president Sonia Gandhi's residence on 26 May to discuss the probable presidential candidates, although they are yet to build consensus.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jun 07, 2017 20:11 PM