Over the last one week, President Pranab Mukherjee has been quietly doing the groundwork in preparation for a hung Lok Sabha, holding meetings with legal and constitutional experts.
Mukherjee met noted jurists Fali Nariman, Soli Sorabjee and Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran last week. The meetings, days ahead of the results, are being linked to the government formation exercise in which the President will play a pivotal role, especially if no party or pre-poll political formation gets 272 seats.
Mukherjee has also met his newly-appointed special legal advisor T K Viswanathan, former union law secretary and former secretary-general of the Lok Sabha. A former professor of law at Madras University, Vishwanathan’s appointment as a consultant to Rashtrapati Bhawan is an unusual step as the President traditionally seeks legal opinion from the government’s law officers instead of appointing his own consultant.
On Monday, Vice President Hamid Ansari met the President. However, Mukherjee has not had too many meetings with political leaders in the last few weeks.
While Kolkata South, where Mukherjee is a registered voter, went to polls on Monday, the President decided not to exercise his franchise in order to preserve the political neutrality of his post — A P J Abdul Kalam was the last President to cast his vote. Mukherjee was learnt to have been keen to vote and his office even procured a postal ballot. But he seemed to have changed his mind at the last minute.
Election results are traditionally presented to the President by the Election Commission once the counting exercise is over, which takes a day or two after the declaration of results. With the counting scheduled for May 16, official results are expected to be presented to Mukherjee by May 18-19.
If a party or alliance get a clear majority, the President’s role is limited to formally inviting that party/ alliance. But in case of a hung house, Mukherjee will play a larger role.