From Rajendra Prasad to Our Next Rashtrapati

Context: The election date for the post of India’s President has been announced by the Elections Commission. Now, it is to be seen, whether political parties will choose candidates who will be rubber stamps or defenders of the constitutional values of the country.

Except for President APJ Abdul Kalam, all other Presidents of India have been political personalities. The majority of these political personalities have been Governors, Rajya Sabha MP, or Finance Ministers.

How the system of selection of Presidential candidates has changed over the years?

For the first 20 years after Independence, anyone could stand for presidential elections in the country. An interesting example was a lawyer from Rohtak, Choudhary Hari Ram. He was a candidate in the first five elections.

History books record his name as the runner-up in the 1962 elections, in which Dr. Radhakrishnan was elected President.

Parliament plugged this loophole by requiring a prospective candidate to get his name proposed by voters in the presidential election, i.e. MPs and MLAs. The law now requires at least 50 proposers and 50 seconders for a valid candidature.

What was the discussion about the election of the President during the framing of the Constitution?

During the framing of the Constitution, there was an extensive debate on how the President would be elected.

The draft Constitution proposed an electoral college made of MLAs and MPs and a two-term limit on an individual holding the office of the President.

However, Constituent Assembly members like KT Shah wanted the direct elections for President by adult franchise. He wanted the president “not to be a creature of party majorities in the Centre or local legislatures, but a real representative of the people”.

However, this reasoning was contrary to the parliamentary model of government being proposed by BR Ambedkar and Jawahar Lal Nehru. Nehru defended the Electoral College mechanism for the presidential election.

He stated that it was a middle ground that ensured that the President was not elected by the majority party dominating Parliament. And that it gave members of the state legislature a role in the election of the President.

The final Constitution retained the electoral college mechanism for electing the President, but rejected the two-term limit.

Powers of President

Constitution framers were also concerned with the nature of the President’s powers. Ambedkar equated the position of the President in the Indian Constitution to that of the King in England.

He said that the President “is the Head of State, but not of the executive. He represents the nation, but does not rule the nation. He is the symbol of the nation. His place in the administration is that of a ceremonial device of a seal by which the nation’s decisions are made known. ”

But shortly after Independence, differences arose between President Rajendra Prasad and Prime Minister Nehru. The point of contention was whether the President could act independently of the advice of the council of ministers.

During Prime Minister Indira Gandhi government, the constitution was amended. It specified that the President shall act on the advice of the council of ministers. However, after the emergency, the Janata Party amended the Constitution, and it allowed the President to ask the council of ministers to reconsider its advice.


Under our Constitution, there is a special place for President. Ministers and members of Parliament bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution. But the President takes the oath to “protect and defend the Constitution and the law”.

Source: This post is created based on the article “From Rajendra Prasad to Our Next Rashtrapati” published in The Times of India, on 11th June 2022.

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