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Changing contours of Presidential polls in India(Update:Presidential)
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Changing contours of Presidential polls in India(Update:Presidential)

Rubber Stamp, is an epithet often used to describe the role that Presidents of India are confined to play in the Indian political strata, particularly at periods when a single party enjoyed a majority in the Parliament.

By Pravash Pradhan

New Delhi, May 31 : 'Rubber Stamp', is an epithet often used to describe the role that Presidents of India are confined to play in the Indian political strata, particularly at periods when a single party enjoyed a majority in the Parliament.

Under the Indian Constitution, the President is elected by the Members of Parliament and Legislative assemblies, but the executive power is exercised by the Prime Minister and the Union Cabinet barring exceptional circumstances. He plays the role of a philosopher and guide to the Government.

'Coalition politics' has replaced 'single party politics' in the country in the last eleven years, and has by default given the post of President a political rather than an apolitical character.

Unlike the earlier 11 presidential elections, the 2007 presidential election could see regional parties like the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Telugu Desam to name a few, playing a crucial role.

In the electoral college for the President, opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has about 350,000 votes of the 1.1 million Electoral College votes and the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has 400,000. Other regional parties account for a further 240,000 votes. Thus, both the NDA and UPA camps will be jockeying hard to get that as yet elusive absolute majority.

Ever since Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati secured a majority in the recent State Assembly elections, her voice is likely to count in selecting the candidate most suitable for the country's top constitutional post.

Mayawati has already held two rounds of talks with Congress President and United Progresive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. But she hasn't revealed her cards.

DMK Chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi has also meet Sonia Gandhi, NCP President Sharad Pawar and CPI (M) leaders on the UPA Presidential candidate. Though the DMK has made it clear that it will support the Congress party's nominee, yet he has kept everybody guessing on whether he has a problem with any of the congress probables.

Although, the UPA has an edge over the NDA in the Electoral College, yet the diverse hopes and aspirations of the UPA constituents have put it at odds. Speculations are rife that the Left, while pledging its support to the Congress veteran Pranab Mukherjee as presidential nominee, has sought a deal over the Vice-President's post.

The NDA, which was a group of 23 parties, has failed to keep its flock together. It has entrusted the task of reaching a consensus on selecting its presidential nominee to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Though Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat has emerged as the hot favourite of the NDA, the BJP has to rope in the non-UPA parties like Samajwadi Party, TDP and AIADMK.

The present President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, is a scientist with no political affiliation. The Congress and the Left parties are pitching for a politician to occupy Raisina Hill, a politician who will be favourable towards their brand of politics and governance. All national parties want a President who would be sympathetic to them.

Other than the last presidential election, all previous polls took place under the regime of single-party, with the Congress (I) ruling the roost on 10 occasions and the short-lived Janata doing so only in 1977 when N. Sanjiva Reddy was elected unanimously.

Even though there were elections for the high office, the elections in 1969 and 1992 witnessed a real contest.

The 1969 election took place between the two candidates respectively supported by the organizational wing of the Congress party and its parliamentary wing led by the Prime Minister. The contest was keen and for the first time the slogan of "conscience vote" was raised and on this basis V. V. Giri won.

In 1992, the election was mainly between congress party candidate Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma and the Christian Tribal Janata Dal candidate G. G. Swell. The political overtones of the election were starkly seen as for the first time merit versus scheduled caste/scheduled tribe/backward class was made an election issue.

In 1952, hardly anyone had ever thought of a Presidential election when the Congress Working Committee, meeting in Kolkata, passed a resolution requesting Rajendra Prasad and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan to agree to be the party's candidates for the posts of President and Vice-President respectively.

In today's era of coalition politics, a 'contest' is expected for the post of first citizen of India who will occupy the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The 12th presidential election may also see a different kind of political ballgame as the major political parties are mulling over before choosing a career politician for President.


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