India's lawmakers are going to elect a new president today from two main contenders -- Ram Nath Kovind backed by ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance and opposition-supported Meira Kumar, a former speaker of parliament.
The election to the top constitutional post will take place at the Parliament House and in all state legislative assembly secretariats where all elected members of the two houses of parliament -- Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha -- and legislative assemblies of states will exercise their franchise to choose the successor to Pranab Mukherjee, the first Bengali to be elected to the highest office five years ago.
To become the next president, either of the candidates needs to secure at least one vote more than 50 percent of the total votes cast.
The results of the poll would be announced on Thursday, five days before Mukherjee's term expires.
While the presidential poll is being seen as a contest between two Dalit leaders, Kumar had, at a conference earlier this month, described it as a “battle of ideologies.”
On the other hand, Kovind, nurtured in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), had said the president's post was above party politics. “A president never belongs to any party. All people irrespective of caste, creed, religion and state are equal. Vote bank is not important for me but development matters.”
The arithmetic in the electoral college favours 72-year-old Kovind, who has received support from several key regional parties outside NDA-fold including Telugu Desam Party, Biju Janata Dal, Telangana Rashtra Samiti, and Janata Dal (U).
The number is clearly tilted towards BJP in Lok Sabha and the party is in power in more states than the opposition parties supporting Kumar.
Meira Kumar, the 71-year-old former diplomat and daughter of India's late defence minister Jagjivan Ram, will be backed by parties like Congress, Trinamool Congress, the Left parties, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party.
If elected, Kovind's rise to the post of president would make him the first for a leader reared in RSS, BJP's spiritual fountainhead.
The possibility of cross-voting by parties is not ruled out as under the constitution, parties cannot issue any whip to its lawmakers to vote for a particular candidate.