Jul 25, 2022

Presidential Elections: A Primer

Guest post by Pallavi Mohan

On 21st July 2022, Droupadi Murmu was named as the President-Elect, and will become the 15th President of India. She will succeed President Ram Nath Kovind at the end of his term on 25th July 2022. As per the Constitution of India, the President of India holds office for a term of 5 years and the next president has to be elected before the expiry of that term.

Who can become the President of India?

Any person – 

  1. who is a citizen of India,
  2. above the age of 35 years, 
  3. is qualified to be elected as a Member of Parliament; and 
  4. does not hold an office of profit under Central, state or local government,

can be elected as the President of India. On the date of taking up office, the President cannot be a member of either House of Parliament or a House of the Legislature of any State. If they are a member of such a house, they are deemed to have vacated the seat in that House on such date. 

How is the President of India elected?

Articles 54 and 55 of the Constitution lay down the process for the election of the President of India. The President’s election is held according to the system of proportional representation through a single transferable vote where the vote is a secret ballot, as explained below. 

The electors in a Presidential election are not ordinary Indian citizens, but 

(a) elected members from both Houses of the Parliament, and 

(b) elected members from all Legislative Assemblies of the States (including Puducherry and the National Capital Territory of Delhi).

Together they make up the “Electoral College”. At present, there are 776 members of Parliament and 4033 members of Legislative Assemblies in the Electoral College. 

How does the Electoral College elect the President of India?

In the Electoral College, the number of votes of each elected Member of a State Legislative Assembly differs from any other and the elected Members of Parliament.  The population of the States (as per the data of the last census) is used to calculate the number of votes assigned to each voter of the electoral college. 

(a) To ensure that States are uniformly represented in the Electoral College, the number of votes of each elected member of a State Legislative Assembly is calculated as follows:

Number of votes for each Member  =  (Population of the state/Total number of elected members in the Assembly)  X   1000

If the result is 500 or more, then the vote of each member is increased by 1.

(b) The number of votes of each elected Member of Parliament is calculated as follows:

Total number of votes for each =   Number of votes for each elected member of that Legislative Assembly  X  Total number of elected members in that Legislative Assembly

(c) The total number of votes assigned to all State Legislative Assemblies is calculated as follows: 

Number of votes for each Member of Parliament = (Total numbers of votes for State Legislative Assemblies)/ (Total number of elected members in both houses of Parliament)

In case the result is a fraction, anything over 1/2 shall be considered as 1 vote whereas all other fractions will be disregarded. 

What is meant by the system of “single transferable vote”? 

In the election of the President, each voter casts only one vote in which they mark their preferences by placing 1,2,3… against the candidates depending on the total number of candidates. When the votes are counted, initially each voter’s first preference is considered. If after the counting, any one candidate has reached the required quota i.e. 50% +1, then that candidate is elected as the President.

However, if no one candidate reaches the required quota, then the candidate receiving the least number of votes is eliminated from the race. In the next round, the vote of all those voters who had voted for the eliminated candidate will be transferred to their second preference. This process of elimination and transfer of votes continues until one candidate reaches the required quota. That person is elected as the President of India.