Yesterday, the BJP announced its candidate for the upcoming election of the President, which is scheduled to be held on July 17. In light of this, we take a look at the manner in which the election to the office of the President is conducted, given his role and relevance in the Constitutional framework.
In his report to the Constituent Assembly, Jawaharlal Nehru had explained, “we did not want to make the President a mere figurehead like the French President. We did not give him any real power but we have made his position one of great authority and dignity.” His comment sums up the role of the President as intended by our Constitution framers. The Constituent Assembly was clear to emphasise that real executive power would be exercised by the government elected directly by citizens. It is for this reason that, in performing his duties, the President functions on the aid and advise of the government.
However, it is also the President who is regarded as the Head of the State, and takes the oath to ‘protect and defend the Constitution and law’ (Article 60 of the Constitution). In order to elect a figure head who would embody the higher ideals and values of the Constitution, the Constituent Assembly decided upon an indirect method for the election of the President.
The President is elected by an Electoral College. While deciding on who would make up the electoral college, the Constituent Assembly had debated several ideas. Dr. B.R Ambedkar noted that the powers of the President extend both to the administration of the centre as well as to that of the states. Hence, in the election of the President, not only should Members of Parliament (MPs) play a part, but Members of the state legislative assemblies (MLAs) should also have a voice. Further, in relation to the centre, some members suggested that the college should comprise only members of the Lok Sabha since they are directly elected by the people. However, others argued that members of Rajya Sabha must be included as well since they are elected by members of directly elected state assemblies. Consequently, the Electoral College comprises all 776 MPs from both houses, and 4120 MLAs from all states. Note that MLCs of states with legislative councils are not part of the Electoral College.
Another aspect that was discussed by the Constituent Assembly was that of the balance of representation between the centre and the states in the Electoral College. The questions of how the votes of MPs and MLAs should be regarded, and if there should be a consideration of weightage of votes were raised. Eventually, it was decided that a ‘system of Proportional Representation’ would be adopted, and voting would be conducted according to the ‘single transferable vote system’.
Under the system of proportional representation, the total weightage of all MLA votes equals the total value of that of the MPs. However, the weightage of the votes of the MLAs varies on the basis of the population of their respective states. For example, the vote of an MLA from Uttar Pradesh would be given higher weightage than the vote of an MLA from a less populous state like Sikkim.
Under the single transferable vote system, every voter has one vote and can mark preferences against contesting candidates. To win the election, candidates need to secure a certain quota of votes. A detailed explanation of how this system plays out is captured in the infographic below.
Sources: Constitution of India; ECI Handbook; PRS.
Coming to the Presidential election to be held next month, the quota of votes required to be secured by the winning candidate is 5,49,452 votes. The distribution of the vote-share of various political parties as per their strength in Parliament and state assemblies looks like this:
Note that the last date for filing nominations is June 28th. In the next few days, political parties will be working across party lines to build consensus and secure the required votes for their projected candidates.
[The infographic on the process of elections was created by Jagriti Arora, currently an Intern at PRS.]
Discussion on the first no-confidence motion of the 17th Lok Sabha began today. No-confidence motions and confidence motions are trust votes, used to test or demonstrate the support of Lok Sabha for the government in power. Article 75(3) of the Constitution states that the government is collectively responsible to Lok Sabha. This means that the government must always enjoy the support of a majority of the members of Lok Sabha. Trust votes are used to examine this support. The government resigns if a majority of members support a no-confidence motion, or reject a confidence motion.
So far, 28 no-confidence motions (including the one being discussed today) and 11 confidence motions have been discussed. Over the years, the number of such motions has reduced. The mid-1960s and mid-1970s saw more no-confidence motions, whereas the 1990s saw more confidence motions.
Figure 1: Trust votes in Parliament
Note: *Term shorter than 5 years; **6-year term.
Source: Statistical Handbook 2021, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs; PRS.
The no-confidence motion being discussed today was moved on July 26, 2023. A motion of no-confidence is moved with the support of at least 50 members. The Speaker has the discretion to allot time for discussion of the motion. The Rules of Procedure state that the motion must be discussed within 10 days of being introduced. This year, the no-confidence motion was discussed 13 calendar days after introduction. Since the introduction of the no-confidence motion on July 26, 12 Bills have been introduced and 18 Bills have been passed by Lok Sabha. In the past, on four occasions, the discussion on no-confidence motions began seven days after their introduction. On these occasions, Bills and other important issues were debated before the discussion on the no-confidence motion began.
Figure 2: Members rise in support of the motion of no-confidence in Lok Sabha