If required, voting will be held on July 17 while July 20 has been fixed as the date of counting. Photograph: (Getty)
The countdown for presidential elections begins today with Election Commission's notification
In the fourteen Presidential elections India has seen so far, only once has a candidate been elected unopposed. Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy was elected unopposed as the first citizen of the country in 1977.
That, however, is unlikely to happen as India readies to elect its 15th President in a few weeks from now with both the ruling BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and the Opposition camp looking set to make a fight out of it.
While it will almost be a matter of prestige for the ruling BJP to get its candidate elected as the next President of India, the Opposition is sensing an opportunity here to embarrass the Narendra Modi government by getting its candidate to be the next occupant of Rashtrapati Bhavan. That probably explains why both the camps are treading cautiously on naming their respective candidates. Despite the likelihood of its candidate sailing through, the BJP still wants to create a broader consensus for its candidate to sail through comfortably.
Wooing Opposition parties also makes sense for the BJP as political parties cannot issue any whip to their legislators for voting in Presidential Elections. Simply put, this means that even Members of Parliament and Members of Legislative Assemblies belonging to the Opposition camp defy party loyalties and can vote for the candidate fielded by the ruling party.
While the names of senior BJP leaders like Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi were circulating up to a few weeks back, the restoration of conspiracy charges against them in the Babri Masjid demolition case appears to have thwarted their chances for now. India's foreign minister Sushma Swaraj could emerge as the dark horse from the NDA stable, sources indicate.
But given Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ability to spring surprises (remember Yogi Adityanath as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister?), a surprise candidate may well be fielded by the BJP.
The Opposition parties, led by Congress, are reportedly mulling fielding the likes of former West Bengal governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi and former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar for the top job.
With the countdown to Indian President Pranab Mukherjee's exit from Rashtrapati Bhavan beginning formally today after the Election Commission of India issued the formal notification for the next presidential elections, the Narendra Modi government now has its task cut out. And that is getting a candidate of its choice elected as the President of India with minimum fuss.