The process for electing India's 13th President will be set in motion formally on Wednesday when the Election Commission issues a notification paving the way for filing of nominations for the July 17 contest in which the ruling NDA seems to have an edge.
The last date for filing of nominations is June 28. Scrutiny will follow on June 29 and the last date for withdrawal is July 1. The vote count will be on July 20, four days before incumbent Pranab Mukherjee's term ends. The new President is set to take charge the next day.
The electoral college for choosing the President consists of 4,896 voters. While the Lok Sabha has 543 voters and the Rajya Sabha 233, the overwhelming majority (4,120) come from state assemblies - MLAs.
The total value of votes in the election is 10,98,903 -- 5,49,408 for MPs and 5,49,495 for MLAs.
The value of each vote of an MP is 708 but this differs for MLAs from state to state. The value of an MLA's vote in Uttar Pradesh is the highest (208) and the least (7) in Sikkim.
The NDA is short of the half-way mark by about 18,000 votes. But it expects to gain the support of many smaller parties besides all the factions of the feuding AIADMK which alone has a vote value of over 26,000.
In 2012, Mukherjee, the nominee of the Congress-led UPA, got 7,13,763 votes while his sole rival P.A. Sangma, fielded by the BJP-led NDA, secured 3,15,987 — of the total vote value of 10,29,750. Mukherjee assumed office on July 25, 2012.
The election will see secret ballot and political parties can't issue a whip to MPs or MLAs.
The Election Commission has said special pens will be provided to voters in view of a row that sorrounded voting for a Rajya Sabha seat in Haryana last year.
"Electors have to mark the ballot only with this pen and not with any other pen. Voting by any other pen may lead to invalidation of the vote," Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi has said.
A nomination paper has to be subscribed by at least 50 electors as 'Proposers' and by at least another 50 as 'Seconders'.
The election is held in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of single transferable vote.
Every elector can have as many preferences as the candidates contesting the election and the winner has to secure the required quota of votes to be declared elected -- 50 per cent of the valid votes plus one.
Lok Sabha Secretary General Anoop Mishra will be the Returning Officer. Votes will be cast in Parliament House and in state assemblies. The vote count will take place in Delhi.
Assistant Returning Officers will be appointed in all state capitals, besides Delhi and Puducherry. Each candidate will be allowed to deploy a representative at the venue of polling.
"MPs are expected to vote in Parliament House in Delhi and the MLAs in their assemblies but they can vote at another polling station in case of exigency," Zaidi said.
The BJP on Monday said it was for a consensus candidate and formed a three-member committee of senior ministers to talk to other political parties.
Its members are two former BJP Presidents Rajnath Singh (Home) and M. Venkaiah Naidu (Urban Development) as well as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
The BJP has not given any indication about its likely nominee but opposition parties including the Congress have held parleys to find a consensus candidate. Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and tribal leader Draupadi Murmu's names are doing the rounds as possible government's choice for the Presidential election.
The opposition parties will meet on June 14 to formally begin discussions on the presidential and vice presidential elections.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi has initiated moves to bring the opposition on a common platform.
She set up a 10-member sub-group of representatives from opposition parties to take forward the deliberations.
The sub-group consists of Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge (Congress), Shard Yadav (JD-U), Lalu Prasad (RJD), Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M), Derek O'Brien (TMC), Ram Gopal Yadav (SP), Satish Chandra Mishra (BSP), R.S. Bharathi (DMK) and Praful Patel (NCP).
Gandhi had earlier convened a luncheon meeting of opposition leaders which brought together leaders from 17 parties.
The meeting decided to wait for the ruling alliance to reach out to them. The opposition parties have said if a consensual candidate does not emerge, they will field a candidate "who will steadfastly defend the constitutional values".
The names of former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi and former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar are doing the rounds. NCP leader Sharad Pawar, whose name figured initially, has said he is not interested in contesting.