With just a day to go for counting of votes and declaration of results in India's national elections, one of the focal points of attention for the entire country is President Pranab Mukherjee, whose role will be pivotal if the mandate is fractured.
However, if a party or an alliance succeeds in securing the majority 272 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha on its own, then the role of the president is very limited to formally inviting that party or alliance to form the next government.
However, the president's role becomes significant when no party or alliance gets a majority on its own. He then has to take a call on which party or alliance he should invite to have a go at government-formation and on what criterion.
Pranab, known as a strict follower of rules, closely and methodically followed the elections and has already consulted constitutional experts seeking their advice on the course to follow if the results throw up a hung parliament.
In fact, even when polling in different phases was on, the president consulted legal luminaries like Soli Sorabjee, Fali S Nariman and Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran, among others.
He has also appointed a special adviser to work with him on legal and constitutional matters should the post-election scenario call for the president's involvement as an arbiter.
According to The Times of India, Pranab may not invite the single largest pre-poll combination to form the government unless it provides letters of support from more parties to prove that it has the required numbers.
After extensive consultations on how to ascertain who is best suited to provide a stable government in a hung House scenario, the president seems to have concluded that the contenders for power ought to back up their claims of majority support by producing letters of support from their allies.
“He wants to make sure that those who stake claims to forming the government actually enjoy majority support in the House,” said a source familiar with the details of the deliberations Pranab has been holding in order to ensure that the new government is stable.
Noted constitutional expert and former attorney general Soli J Sorabjee suggested that producing letters of support may not be necessary if the president was satisfied that the single largest party or pre-poll coalition holds the prospect of providing a viable government after an election which fails to throw up an outright winner.
“If the president is satisfied on that count, then there is no need to seek letters of support from post-poll alliance partners. After inviting the largest coalition or party to form the government, he could give it reasonable time, say a week or two, to prove its majority on the floor of the House," Sorabjee told a newspaper.