As Pranab Mukherjee nears the end of his five-year presidential term, the Opposition parties are yet to prop up a consensus candidate while the government, too, is in consultations within its party and allies on a probable nominee.
As hectic parleys continue on presidential candidates, it is pertinent to know that the election of the President of India is not a simple and direct one.
The President cannot be elected by the people of the state themselves. If the case was such, the President could claim direct power of the people since they voted for her. In 1848, Louis Napolean, who was elected as head of state by a direct vote of the people, overthrew the French republic and claimed he was the emperor since he had been directly elected. Keeping this incident in mind, the President of India is elected indirectly.
But what does indirect mean?
The President of India is elected by an electoral college. This college comprises the elected representatives of the government that form the government after being elected in the state assembly and national elections. The citizens of the country directly elect these representatives. It is these elected representatives who then vote for the President, in theory representing the people who would ideally vote for the President. Nominated members of state assemblies and the two Houses are not allowed to participate in the presidential election as they have been nominated by the President herself. Issuing whips to garner votes for a particular candidate is also prohibited.
All MPs and MLAs have a certain number of votes
However, a lengthy calculation designates the value of votes of every elected MLA and MP. For the MLA, the number is decided by the total population of the state divided by the number of elected members to the legislative assembly, further divided by 1000. The population data is taken from the 1971 census. This census will be used until 2026.
For example, the total population of Madhya Pradesh in 1971 was 30,017,180. The total number of elected members of the legislative assembly is 230. So the value of vote of an MLA will be:
The value of the vote of an MP is decided by dividing the total value of votes of all MLAs of the whole country, divided by the total number of elected MPs in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
The total value of the state vote is calculated by multiplying the value of vote of one MLA with the total number of elected MLAs.
How do these MLAs and MPs vote?
Unlike a traditional ballot, where the voter casts one vote only for her selected candidate, a presidential election ballot does not follow this system. What it follows is the Single Transferable Vote system. According to this, each voter marks out her preference for the presidential candidate. If there are five candidates for example, the voter will give five preferences. It is mandatory to give a first preference as the vote will be declared invalid in its absence. However, if the voter doesn’t give other preferences, the vote will be considered valid.
The vote quota has come about as a result of Proportional Representation which ensures equal representation to all groups. Simply casting votes or indicating preference is not enough as the person with the most number of votes or first preference does not win the presidential election. The total number of valid votes decide how many votes will a candidate need in order to be declared winner. This number is divided by two and added to one to form the benchmark of winning. For example, if there are 50,000 valid votes, then the candidate would require (50,000/2)+1, which is equal to 25,001 votes.
Should any candidate fail to reach the vote quota, the candidate with the minimum number of votes is eliminated and her votes are transferred to the other candidates on the basis of the second preference. If the vote quota is achieved, a winner emerges but if it doesn’t, the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated again and others get her votes on the basis of the third preference.
Once the vote quota is achieved by one candidate, the winner is announced.
Consider this example. Out of four candidates, A, B, C, and D, the results of the first preference counting are:
In this case, candidate B will be eliminated and her votes will be distributed to the rest of the candidates on the basis of the second preference. Post this, suppose, A gets 3000 votes, C gets 2000 votes and D gets 3000 votes. The new results are:
D: 13, 000
Now, candidate D gets eliminated with, suppose, A getting 2,000 votes and C getting 11,000 votes.
Exceeding the vote quota, candidate C will be declared as the President of India.