New Delhi: The stage is set for electing India’s next President with the Election Commission (EC) on Wednesday announcing dates for the poll process. Polling, if necessary, for the country’s top titular post will take place on 17 July and counting of votes will happen on 20 July.
The announcement has set the ball rolling for a fresh electoral battle between Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Congress party-led opposition. The term of incumbent President Pranab Mukherjee ends on 24 July.
“The Election Commission is mandated to ensure that the election to the office of the President of India, which is the highest elective office in the nation, must be a free and fair election and the Commission is taking all necessary steps for discharging its Constitutional responsibility,” chief election commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi told reporters on Wednesday.
He added that the formal notification for the polls will be issued on 14 June and the last day for filing nominations is 28 June. Scrutiny of the nominations will be done by the EC on 29 June and the last day for withdrawal of nominations is 1 July.
The President will be elected by an electoral college which includes elected members of both houses of Parliament as well as elected members of state legislative assemblies including Delhi and Puducherry. Nominated members are not part of the electoral college.
Zaidi on Wednesday clarified that no elections will be held for the 13 vacant seats (10 state Assembly seats, 2 Lok Sabha seats and 1 Rajya Sabha seat) across legislative assemblies till the polling process ends. He added that 21 members of the legislative assembly in Delhi, who belong to the Aam Aadmi Party and are under EC scrutiny in an office-of-profit case, will also be allowed to vote unless a decision on their case is taken before the polling date.
“Political parties cannot issue whips to their MPs or MLAs in the voting of Presidential polls,” Zaidi said in a word of caution to political parties.
After a controversy over pens in the Rajya Sabha polls in Haryana last year (some votes were invalidated by the use of an “unauthorized” pen), the EC will be supplying specific pens for marking of preferences during the Presidential polls. These pens will be given to electors in the polling stations by the designated officials along with the ballot paper and use of any other pen will attract invalidation of votes.
“Electors have to mark the ballot only with this particular pen and not with any other pen. Voting by using any other pen may lead to invalidation of the vote at the time of counting,” the EC said in a statement.
While the NDA is confident that it has the numbers to get its candidate elected, the opposition is coming together to field a candidate of its own if the government fails to propose a consensus candidate.