Context

  • The Election Commission has allowed 14 Rajya Sabha and 41 Lok Sabha members to vote in the Assemblies for the presidential election, while five MLAs will vote in Parliament on 17th
  • Among the Rajya Sabha members 12 are from the Trinamool Congress

Why do we need the President?

  • Article 52 states that there shall be a President of India.
  • The executive powers of the Union shall be vested in the President.
  • He, as the head of a state,
  • symbolizes the nation.
  • In some democratic systems, the head of the state is also the head of the government and, therefore, he will also be the head of the political executive.

How is the President of India elected?

  • The President is elected through an electoral college that comprises of MPs and State and Union Territory MLAs.
  • There are 543 Lok Sabha members, 233 Rajya Sabha members, and 4,120 MLAs from 29 States and two Union Territories.
  • The total number of votes is 10,98,903.

What does Presidential in-direct elections mean?

  • The electoral 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.

The number of votes garnished MLAs

  • 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.

MPs

  • 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.

The Single Transferable Vote system

  • A presidential election ballot follows the Single Transferable Vote system.
  • Each voter marks out his/her preference for the presidential candidate.
  • 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.

Vote Quota

  • 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.

Why is vote quota important?

  • 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.

Criticism

  • The President election process is slightly complex and people find it difficult to understand the calculations behind the value of vote.
  • The Presidential election, the value of the MP vote is different from the value of a MLA vote.
  • Not just that, the value of a MLA vote from one state differs from the value of the MLA vote of another state. The value of all the votes put together is the value of the voters for the election.
  • President is elected by an electoral college consisting of MPs & MLAs. However, this system of selecting the president by the selected Electoral College at times leads to partial results. As more often the ruling party has the upper hand and a majority in the Parliament.
  • Presidential elections in India have traditionally been a keen contest with most political parties aligning to support one or the other leading candidate.
  • A presidential system centralizes power in one individual unlike the parliamentary system, where the Prime Minister is the first among equals. The surrender to the authority of one individual, as in the presidential system, is dangerous for democracy.
  • The over-centralization of power in one individual is something we have to guard against.
  • Those who argue in favour of a presidential system often state that the safeguards and checks are in place: that a powerful President can be stalled by a powerful legislature.
  • But if the legislature is dominated by the same party to which the President belongs, a charismatic President or a “strong President” may prevent any move from the legislature.
  • The other argument, that it is easier to bring talent to governance in a presidential system, is specious. Besides, ‘outside’ talent can be brought in a parliamentary system too.
  • On the other hand, bringing ‘outside’ talent in a presidential system without people being democratically elected would deter people from giving independent advice to the chief executive because they owe their appointment to him/her.

Changes required

  • A diverse country like India cannot function without consensus-building.
  • This “winner takes it all” approach, which is a necessary consequence of the presidential system, is likely to lead to a situation where the views of an individual can ride roughshod over the interests of different segments.
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