A candidate who called himself God had hoped to contest for President, and left with the curse of a catastrophe when his nomination was rejected. Most of the 92 other hopefuls, one of whom had listed Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln and Einstein among his proposers, dropped out without making such a fuss, their rejected nomination forms hanging loosely on the board in Parliament. In the end, only Ram Nath Kovind and Meira Kumar remained in the fray.
Devidayal Agrawal of Panipat called himself God and a “supreme power” who does not need 50 MLAs or MPs as proposers. “I have become God and Supreme Power, Meira Kumar and Ramnath Kovind should not be elected President. Do they have magic wand?” he wrote in his nomination, with a warning: “If my appeal will not be listened then heavy magnitude earthquake will appear in New Delhi. I should be elected President. I am the biggest scientist of the world.”
When his nomination was rejected, he fumed at an officer in Parliament: “I curse. There will be catastrophe (anarth hoga).” Shortly afterwards, it began to rain heavily. “I had said I would bring rain. I made it,” said Agrawal, who had written “I am God” 24 times in his nomination paper. Vinod Kumar of Jind, Haryana, had listed his proposers as Bhagat Singh, Vivekananda, Nelson Mandela, B R Ambedkar, Subash Chandra Bose, J F Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Lenin, besides Martin Luther, Lincoln and Einstein. Another had listed Tata, Birla, Lata Mangeshkar and Amitabh Bachchan.
Lok Sabha sources said 95 candidates filed a total of 108 nomination forms, including four each by Kovind and Meira Kumar. Those of 93 were rejected for various reasons. The first to go were 35 whose papers did not include a certified copy of the electoral roll. During scrutiny Thursday, the rest were rejected on grounds such as the absence of a list of 50 proposers and 50 seconders, and failure to deposit the nomination fee of Rs 15,000.
“There were all kinds of discrepancies,” a source said. “One candidate filed two sets of forms in which the names of proposers and seconders were signed; they were found to be fake. Another had written the names of fellow villagers in the list of proposers.” Yet, the source said, “All of them were quite serious. Of those whose nomination had not been rejected before scrutiny, most came to the office of the Lok Sabha general secretary to find out what had become of their nominations.”
The candidates varied in age and profile, from a 37-year-old Haji to a 78-year-old retired person. One set of nominations listed names from “Indian Institute of Tata”, “Birla” to “Indian Institute of Haircutting Saloon”. Shanti Lal Jain of Shivpuri, Madhya Pradesh, listed 60 proposers and 60 seconders — none of them valid. On the other hand, Shivappa Mallappa Bagal of Bengaluru listed “Indian original Constitution” as his proposer at all 50 places. He said the presidential election should be reserved only for men.
Another candidate resented the fact that the electoral college is still based on the 1971 census. A number of candidates questioned the provision that demands 50 proposers and 50 seconders from among MPs and MLAs. Madan Lal of Panipat, Haryana, wanted the Election Commission to amend this. Lal and Bhupendra Kumar of Delhi felt that candidates of political parties are bound by the instruction of their respective parties and that jan pratinidhi rather than dal pratinidhi should mark the presidential poll.
The provision for 50 MLAs or MPs as proposers and seconders was introduced in 1977. Before that, a higher number of candidates often made the final cut. In 1969, there were 15 candidates apart from the two main contenders — V V Giri, who won that election, and Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, who would become President in 1982.
Since 1977, there have been very few occasions when there have been more than two candidates remaining at the end of scrutiny. In 1987, one Mitilesh Kumar was the third candidate apart from R Venkataraman (the winner) and V R Krishna Iyer. Mithilesh got 2,223 votes in an electoral college of 10.2 lakh. In 1992, apart from Shankar Dayal Sharma (who won) and G G Swell, the contest included Ram Jethmalani and Kaka Joginder Singh Dhartipakad. Jethmalani got 2,704 votes, Dhartipakad 1,135.