Dubai: India votes for a new President on July 18.
Unlike the parliamentary elections where all citizens of India above the age of 18 are eligible to vote to elect their representatives, the election for President is done by an electoral college, with members of parliament and state legislatures casting their vote.
The term of the current President Ram Nath Kovind ends on July 24 and the new President will take office on July 25. Counting for the elections will be held on July 21.
Here’s a look at the candidates who are contesting for the top post and the process of electing the President of India.
Who are the candidates?
Droupadi Murmu, 64, is the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance presidential candidate.
Murmu, who hails from Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district, was first considered a presidential contender five years ago when President Pranab Mukherjee was leaving Rashtrapati Bhavan. She was then governor of Jharkhand.
Murmu comes from a tribal family and completed her studies despite challenging circumstances. She taught at Shri Aurobindo Integral Education Centre, Rairangpur, before she entered state politics.
She served as councilor in the Rairangpur Nagar Panchayat in 1997 and as vice-president of the BJP’s Scheduled Tribes Morcha.
Contesting on a BJP ticket, Murmu has been an MLA twice, from Rairangpur in Mayurbhanj (2000 and 2009).
In 2007, the Odisha assembly honoured her with the ‘Nilakantha Award’ for best MLA. She served as a junior assistant in Irrigation and Power Department between 1979 and 1983. She has held several organisational posts in the BJP.
When the BJP-Biju Janata Dal coalition came to power in 2000, Murmu was the Commerce and Transport minister and later the Fisheries and Animal Husbandry minister.
In 2015, Murmu was sworn in as the first woman governor of Jharkhand.
Yashwant Sinha, 84, a three-time Lok Sabha MP from Jharkhand’s Hazaribagh constituency, is the opposition’s presidential candidate.
Yashwant Sinha was born into a relatively affluent family, with his father having a law practice. He obtained a Master’s Degree in Political Science in 1958 and then taught Political Science at Patna University from 1958 to 1960.
He was then selected for the Indian Civil Services, and as an IAS officer, Sinha served in various capacities in Bihar and also represented the government abroad.
He was First Secretary (Commercial) in the Indian Embassy, Bonn, Germany, between 1971 and 1973. He then worked as Consul General of India in Frankfurt from 1973 to 1974. He served as a Joint Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Surface Transport before resigning from the IAS.
After resigning from the IAS in 1984, Sinha joined the Janata Dal and became a Rajya Sabha member in 1988. He served as the all-India general secretary of the party and was named Finance Minister in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar between November 1990 and June 1991.
Sinha joined the BJP in 1993 and was picked to lead the Finance and External Affairs ministries in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government from 1999 to 2004. However, he was sidelined when he joined others seeking the removal of L.K. Advani as Leader of the Opposition. He left the party in 2018 saying it had become a ‘threat to democracy’ in its present form.
He then joined the Trinamool Congress. Recently, Sinha announced his resignation from the party saying the time had come for him to step aside for a larger national cause.
Sinha’s son, Jayant, is still part of the BJP and is an MP from Hazaribagh, his father’s former constituency.
How is the Indian president elected?
The President of India is elected by an electoral college comprising the members of both the houses of Parliament and the members of the legislative assemblies of all the States and Union territories.
The nominated members of Rajya Sabha, Lok Sabha and the Assembles, and members of the state Legislative Councils are not part of the electoral college.
What is the value of a vote?
The votes are weighted - the value of a vote determined by the population of each state according to the census of 1971.
The value of each MLA’s vote varies from state to state depending on the population – from a high of 208 in Uttar Pradesh to a low of 7 in Sikkim.
So Uttar Pradesh’s 403 MLAs contribute 208x403 = 83,824 votes, while Sikkim’s 32 MLAs contribute 32x7 = 224 votes.
The weighted votes from all the Assemblies add up to 543,000.
The value of an MP’s vote is 543,000 divided by 776 (total number of MPs), rounded off to 700.
The combined electoral pool from Parliament and the Assemblies adds up to 1.86 million.
What are the qualifications to become the president of India?
Article 58 of the Indian Constitution lists some of the qualifications for the office of President of India.
• The President should be a citizen of India.
• The President must be above the age of 35 years.
• The President should be qualified for election as a member of the Lok Sabha.
• The President of India should not hold any office of profit under the State Government, Union, and other local authorities.
How is a presidential candidate nominated?
The nomination of a candidate for the office of the President needs to be consented to by at least 50 electors as proposers and 50 electors as seconders.
This rule was adopted in 1974 after the Election Commission realized that in the previous elections several candidates submitted their names even though they did not have a change of getting elected.
In this election too, nearly 80 candidates filed their nominations. However, after scrutiny of papers, only two candidates, Droupadi Murmu and Yashwant Sinha, fulfilled the necessary criteria.
What is the term of the President and can he/she be re-elected?
The President of India is elected for a five-year term and can serve any number of terms.
So far, only Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India, has served a second term.
The Vice-President acts as President in the absence of the President due to death, resignation, impeachment or other situations. If the Vice-President’s seat is vacant, then the Chief Justice of India acts as the President.
What is the salary of the President of India? What are the other perks?
The President of India draws a salary of approximately Rs 500,000 per month.
The President also receives other allowances that include free medical, housing and treatment facilities.
The government also spends Rs 22.5 million annually on other expenses like President’s housing, staff, food and hosting of guests.
Where does the President stay?
The president of India stays in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, a sprawling heritage building with a total of 340 rooms spread over four floors. The building houses the president’s official residence, including reception halls, guest rooms, and offices.