NEW DELHI: Election for the next President of India will be held today where NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind is pitted against opposition nominee Meira Kumar.
The counting of votes will take place on July 20 in New Delhi where all the ballot boxes will be brought from various state capitals.
The MPs and MLAs cannot use their pens and will have to mark their preferences in the presidential poll on Monday with an especially-designed writing instrument. Voting by using any other pen will be held invalid, the Election Commission said on Sunday.
The violet ink pen, procured from Mysore Paints that supplies indelible ink to mark voters’ fingers, carries a unique serial number and will be handed over to the voter before they enter the voting chambers in Parliament and state assemblies.
The move – a first by the Election Commission – comes in the wake of a row that erupted in the Rajya Sabha polls in Haryana last year. Votes of 12 MLAs from the Congress and its allies were declared invalid in September 2016 because they had marked their preferences with a pen other than the one officially supplied by the poll staff. The especially designed pens are being supplied “so as to ensure that only instrument supplied by the EC is used for marking the ballot,” a statement from the poll panel said.
The electorate, comprising elected Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha members and members of state assemblies, is tilted in favour of the NDA, but the opposition is still working to seek support of some regional parties in favour of their candidate.
Both Kovind, a former Bihar Governor, and Kumar, the former Lok Sabha Speaker, have held a series of meetings across states to garner support for their candidature.
The tenure of incumbent Pranab Mukherjee comes to an end on July 24. So far 13 stalwarts, including Mukherjee, have held the post.
The electoral college, which elects the President through the system of proportional representation, comprises MPs and members of state legislative assemblies. A total of 4,896 voters – 4,120 MLAs and 776 elected MPs – are eligible to cast their ballot. MLCs of states with legislative council are not part of the electoral college.
While the Lok Sabha Speaker, an elected member, can vote, the two nominated members in the Lower House from the Anglo-Indian community cannot. Twelve nominated members in Rajya Sabha are also ineligible. Since the election is through a secret ballot, the parties cannot issue a whip to their members to vote for a particular candidate.
A total of 13 vacancies in Lok Sabha and state assemblies will be filled up after the presidential elections.
The NDA, led by the BJP, has 5,37,683 votes includes the Shiv Sena, and the shortage is around 12,000 votes. But the promised support from the BJD, the TRS and the YSR Congress and likely backing from the AIADMK factions could offset the shortfall of the presidential votes by a substantial margin.
In the 2012 elections, Pranab Mukherjee garnered 7,13,763 votes, while Pratibha Patil secured 6,38,116 votes in the previous polls in 2007. Both Mukherjee and Patil were Congress nominees.
This time, the Lok Sabha secretary general is the returning officer. Last time, it was the secretary general of Rajya Sabha.
A total of 32 polling stations – one in Parliament House and one each in the state legislative assemblies, have been set up.
Thirty three observers have been appointed by the EC to oversee the conduct of election. While two observers will be present in the Parliament House, one each will be deployed in the respective state assemblies.