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India to choose Prez today

| | New Delhi
India to choose Prez today

All arrangements are in place for the presidential elections that will take place at Parliament House in Delhi and in all State Legislative Assembly Secretariats on Monday. The race to Raisina Hills will pit Opposition nominee and former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar against the ruling NDA’s pick and former Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind.

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.

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. 

Meanwhile, the Election Commission of India has permitted 41 Lok Sabha members and 14 Rajya Sabha members to vote in State Assemblies instead in Parliament.

Similarly the Commission has allowed five MLAs to cast their ballot in Parliament House and four other MLAs to vote in State Assemblies which they have not been elected to.

Usually, MPs vote in Parliament House and MLAs in their respective State Assemblies. As per rules governing presidential elections, lawmakers can ask the Commission to make an exception to allow them to vote from some other place.

Both Kovind and Kumar 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 Pranab, have held the post.

The NDA, led by the BJP, has 5,37,683 votes, including those of 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.

Kovind, who recently concluded his visit to Gujarat, his “second home”, has received support from several regional heavy-weights, including the TDP, the TRS, the BJD, the YSRCP, the LJP and the  Shiv Sena. Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) has also indicated that it would support Kovind’s candidature. Kumar will be backed  by parties like the TMC, the CPI(M), the RJD, the SP and the BSP.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has also hinted that it will support Kumar in her bid to become the next President.

The ongoing tensions between the two factions of Samajwadi Party led by Akhilesh Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav  could possibly trigger cross-voting. AAP leader H S Phoolka is likely to refrain from the voting as he had stated that he will not vote for Kumar. Madhya Pradesh Cabinet Minister Narottam Mishra -- disqualified by the Election Commission for not disclosing money spent on paid news in 2008 Assembly elections - will not cast his vote on Monday.

As per the EC document accessed by The Pioneer, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya and Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar are among 55 MPs who will vote in their State Assemblies instead of Parliament House.

Parrikar, Adityanath and UP Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya have not yet given up their Parliament membership. While Parrikar is a Rajya Sabha member, Adityanath and Maurya are Lok Sabha members. Most of the MPs who would vote in their respective Assemblies belong to the Trinamool Congress. While MPs will mark their vote on a green-coloured ballot paper, pink-coloured ballot papers will be used for MLAs.

Since the election is through a secret ballot, the parties cannot issue a whip to their members to vote for a particular candidate.

In the 2012 elections, 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. A total of 4896 voters --- 4120 MLAs and 776 elected MPs -- are eligible to cast their ballot. The value of an MLA’s vote depends on the population of the State s/he represents. But the value of the vote of an MP does not vary -- it is 708. Hence, the colour of ballot papers will help the returning officer count votes based on the value.

The total value of the electoral college is 10,98,903. A total of 13 vacancies in Lok Sabha and State Assemblies will be filled up after the presidential elections.

In a fresh development, the EC has barred MPs and MLAs who vote to elect the next President from carrying their personal pens inside the voting chamber and will have to mark their ballot with specially- designed marker pens.



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