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The process and the numbers

Published : Jul 06, 2002 00:00 IST



EXCEPT in 1977, there has always been a contest since the first presidential election in 1952. In 1977, Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy was declared elected without a contest after the returning officer rejected the nominations of 36 other candidates.

The President is elected by the members of an electoral college consisting of the elected members of both Houses of Parliament and the Legislative Assemblies of the States, including the National Capital Territory of Delhi and the Union Territory of Pondicherry. Nominated members are not eligible to vote. The electoral college this time has 4,896 members.

Article 55 of the Constitution provides for uniformity as far as practicable in the scale of representation of different States in the presidential election. To ensure parity and uniformity among the States, a formula has been laid down to determine the value of the vote which each elected member of Parliament and of the Legislative Assembly of each State is entitled to.

In the case of Members of Legislative Assemblies, the value of each vote is calculated by dividing the State's population (as per the 1971 Census) by the number of seats multiplied by 1,000. For instance, if the total population of Andhra Pradesh is 43,502,708 and the number of seats in the State Assembly 294, the value of each vote from the State will be 147.96 or 148. (43,502,708/294x1000). The total value of the votes of each State Assembly is then worked out by multiplying the vote value of each member with the total number of seats.

In the case of Members of Parliament, the value of each vote is calculated by adding up the total vote values of all the State Assemblies and dividing it by the total number of elected MPs (Lok Sabha 543, Rajya Sabha 233). The value of the vote of each MP is 708.

A system of proportional representation through a single transferable vote is followed in voting. The ballot paper contains the names of the candidates and a column for marking out the order of preference. Each elector has as many preferences as the number of candidates and the ballot paper is valid even if all preferences are not marked. The electors have to indicate preferences numerically.

The quota required for getting elected is calculated by dividing the total number of valid votes by two and adding one to the quotient to round it off. If no candidate gets the quota on the basis of first preference votes, the returning officer proceeds to the second round of counting. In this round, the candidate with the lowest value of votes of first preference is eliminated and his/her votes are distributed among the remaining candidates according to the second preference marked on the ballot papers. The process of elimination goes on until one of the remaining candidates gets the required quota or until only one candidate remains in the field.

The total value of the votes of the 4,896 electors (4,120 MLAs and 776 MPs) is 10,98,882. Even though the Left has conceded that it is an unequal contest, it is interesting that if the People's Front had held together and the Congress(I) had been consistent, the National Democratic Alliance would have faced a tough challenge. According to a Left leader, the situation would have been different had the Congress(I), the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the Left Front, the Samajwadi Party (S.P.), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) stood together. A combination of the Left, the Congress(I) and its allies, the NCP, the S.P., the RJD and the AIADMK would have secured 5,16,641 votes as compared to 5,53,725 votes that a combination of the NDA, the NCP and the AIADMK would have got. The Left has 85,563 votes.

In the presidential elections of 1952, 1957, 1962, 1967 and 1969, there were candidates without any chance of getting elected. There were also instances of defeated candidates challenging in a court of law the election itself.

In consultation with the Election Commission, the Central government issued in 1974 a new set of rules governing the presidential and vice-presidential elections, replacing the Rules of 1952. A notification in June 1997 amended the rules further. Some of the important amendments were: 1. A presidential candidate should have his nomination paper proposed by 50 electors and seconded by as many; 2. In the case of a vice-presidential candidate, the nomination paper has to be proposed by 20 electors and seconded by 20; 3. No elector can propose or second more than one nomination paper in the same election; 4. No more than four nominations can be filed on behalf of a single candidate; and 5. A prospective candidate has to place Rs.15,000 as security deposit.

(This story was published in the print edition of Frontline magazine dated Jul 06, 2002.)



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