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What the BJP’s Uttarakhand, UP election wins mean for the presidential poll

LiveMint logoLiveMint 11-03-2017 Elizabeth Roche

New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) decisive victories in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh elections gives it a clear edge in the selection of a presidential candidate and seeing the person through the presidential election due in July.

Incumbent Pranab Mukherjee demits office on 25 July 2017. His successor will be elected by an electoral college comprising the members of both houses of parliament and elected members of the assemblies of 29 states plus the national capital territory of Delhi and the union territory of Puducherry.

Election results 2017: Jubilation for BJP, consolation for Congress, isolation for AAP

The BJP is already in power on its own in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Assam and in partnership with another party in Jammu and Kashmir and Andhra Pradesh.

Adding two more states to its kitty, the BJP is now in a very comfortable position to see through its candidate to the office of president, say analysts. Having a president of its choice in Rashtrapati Bhavan will be helpful to the party if it needs support in complicated political situations—like imposing central rule in a state, say analysts. The president is the one who gives formal assent to laws passed by parliament.

“The win in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand bolsters the prospects of the BJP tremendously to ensure its candidate is elected to office,” said A.K. Verma, a professor of political science at Christ Church College in Kanpur.

“The win in UP is specially significant because UP legislative assembly members carry the maximum value of votes” in a presidential election given the state is India’s most populous, he said.

According to Verma, the value of a vote of an elected state legislator is equivalent to the population of the state divided by the number of elected legislators divided –yet again – by 1,000. Given that Uttar Pradesh has the largest population in India—projected at 217 million by the 2011 Census according to the Census Commissioner’s website and often compared to that of Brazil’s—its legislators carry the maximum value of votes, he said.

A candidate for the presidential election must be endorsed by at least 50 electors as proposers and 50 electors as seconders. The election is held in accordance with the system of proportional representation and voting takes place by secret ballot.

“I don’t think there is any doubt that the BJP nominee for the post of president will be elected,” said Balveer Arora, former professor of political science at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

“Unless the entire opposition unites behind one candidate, then there would be a division. But even then, one will have to carefully scrutinise the numbers given that the presidential polls are based on complex math,” Arora said.

Also falling vacant in August is the vice president’s office with incumbent Mohammed Hamid Ansari completing his second five-year term.

“While the BJP will be certain to nominate one of their own for the post of president, the post of vice president could go to an ally it wants to keep in good humour or placate (it). Alternatively, the BJP could also nominate someone from South India for this post where the party would be eager to make its presence felt,” Arora said.

“Those, I think, maybe the considerations when deciding on a vice presidential nominee,” he added.

The BJP in 2002 got its nominee—former Rajasthan chief minister Bhairon SIngh Shekhawat—elected to the post of vice president. Shekhawat occupied the post in 2002-2007. This was after the opposition candidate—former missile scientist A.P.J. Abdul Kalam —was named president of India.

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