Presidential election: NDA’s nominee set to hold advantage

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government is in a comfortable position to elect its nominee as the next President of India in the upcoming poll for the country’s highest office, even as it is short of the required majority mark by a little less than 20,000 votes. The ruling NDA will be looking at AIADMK, BJD and YSRCP—parties that have been consistent in their support for the Modi government in the last eight years — for the additional votes it requires.
The Election Commission of India announced on Thursday that the election will be held on July 18, and the votes counted on July 21.
The current figures don’t take into account the ongoing Rajya Sabha elections, the result of which will be out on Friday evening. The biennial polls, however, will only mildly alter the current standing.
The upcoming presidential election will be the second in which MLAs of J&K cannot participate due dissolution of its assembly. In 1992, when Shankar Dayal Sharma was elected as India’s ninth President, the state of J&K was under its longest President’s Rule (from 1990 to 1996).
This time, too, the Union territory of J&K has remained under the President’s Rule since 2019. Eighty-seven MLA seats and four Rajya Sabha seats from the state remain vacant. The Lok Sabha MPs from J&K and Ladakh, however, will participate to elect the country’s first citizen.
The absence of MLAs and Rajya Sabha MPs from J&K and Ladakh has also reduced the value of the vote of each MP from 708 to 700 and the total votes of the collegium has also gone down from 1,098,903 to 1,086,431 votes, bringing down the majority mark to 543,216 votes.
The BJP’s emphatic wins in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the 2022 Uttar Pradesh poll and the fact that it also rules key states such as Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Bihar and Assam take the NDA to a tally of 525,706 votes in the presidential collegium. Its improved Rajya Sabha tally and recent wins in several small states have also significantly contributed to this number.
Apart from the NDA’s own votes, the BJP is also in touch with Naveen Patnaik’s BJD, which has 31,686 votes in this election. YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSRCP (43,450 votes) and the AIADMK with 15,640 votes are also important — they have voted with the BJP in the past on some key laws — and can ensure smooth sailing for the ruling dispensation’s candidate.
The BJP is confident of its candidate winning with a “better margin than even in 2017.”
“As on date it is being said that the party will fall short of number etc, but why is it assumed that parties that are neither in the NDA nor the UPA will vote for the opposition’s candidate?” asked a BJP functionary.
Last month both BJD chief, Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik, and YSRCP chief, Andhra Pradesh CM Jagan Reddy, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While both parties maintained that the meetings were related to state-specific issues, it is likely that there was some discussion on the presidential candidate too.
The BJP has also designated union ministers to reach out to non-BJP chief ministers who are not part of the Opposition.
In the past too, the YSRCP has supported the NDA candidates for the presidential and vice-presidential polls. The BJD did not support the NDA candidate in 2017 for the presidential polls.
The Opposition now has 309,358 votes, a steep slide from the 2017 election when Opposition candidate Meira Kumar received 434,241 votes and President Ram Nath Kovind secured 661,278 votes. The Opposition’s weakened position is primarily due to the string of losses faced by the Congress in assembly elections.
The Congress and the other Opposition parties are, however, determined to field their own candidate against the NDA’s nominee, and talks have already started between the Opposition constituents.