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Presidential elections: Over 70 years, 14 Presidents, 15 big fights

From the 1969 polls that led to the split in the then mighty ruling Congress, to the 1997 elections when the Opposition BJP backed the ruling coalition's candidate, presidential elections have been politically fascinating

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi |
Updated: June 10, 2022 10:26:46 am
The Election Commission of India on Thursday announced the schedule for the 16th Presidential elections. (Photo: Express Archive)

Even if Presidential elections don’t generate the kind of buzz that general elections do, they have had their share of big fights, close contests, walkovers and upsets – from the politically fascinating 1969 polls that led to the split in the then mighty ruling Congress, to the 1997 elections when the Opposition BJP backed the ruling coalition’s candidate, thus forcing former Chief Election Commissioner T N Seshan to enter the fray.

On Thursday, the Election Commission of India announced the schedule for the 16th Presidential elections. Here’s a look at the 15 previous ones:

* The last Presidential election was held in 2017. The Opposition had fielded former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar against President Ram Nath Kovind. She had the support of 17 Opposition parties, including the Samajwadi Party and the BSP. Surprisingly, the JD(U), then in the Opposition camp, deserted it and extended support to Kovind. While Kovind bagged 7,02,044 votes, Kumar got 3,67,314 votes. Kovind secured 65.65 per cent of the votes.

* In 2012, UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee became the 13th president of India securing a vote value of 7,13,763 (69 per cent) trouncing the BJP’s P A Sangma who got 30.7 per cent of votes with a vote value of 3,15,987.

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* In 2007, the country got its first woman president after UPA-Left nominee Pratibha Patil defeated the BJP’s Bhairon Singh Shekhawat by 3,06,810 votes. The Shiv Sena, then a constituent of the NDA, had backed Patil, who was from Maharashtra. While Patil got 6,38,116 votes, Shekhawat got 3,31,306 votes. The strength of the electoral college then was 9,69,422.

* In 2002, the Congress and most of the opposition parties decided to back noted scientist A P J Abdul Kalam, the BJP’s choice. The Left parties, however, did not join them and fielded Captain Lakshmi Sahgal. It was a one sided contest. While Kalam bagged 9,22,884 of the total 10,30,250 votes, Sahgal got 1,07,366 votes.

In 2012, UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee became the 13th president of India. (Photo: Express Archive)

* One of the most one-sided elections in recent history was in 1997 when K R Narayanan was fielded by parties in the United Front government and the Congress and the BJP, the main opposition party then, backed him. Narayanan was elected the 10th President polling 9,56,290 votes. His rival, the former Election Commissioner T N Seshan, got merely 50,361 votes and forfeited his security deposit. Seshan had the support of the Shiv Sena and some Independent MLAs.

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* In 1992, Congress’s Shankar Dayal Sharma too won comfortably. The Opposition had then fielded George Gilbert Swell, a veteran parliamentarian and former deputy speaker of the Lok Sabha. A Christian and a tribal from Meghalaya, Swell, a former Indian envoy in Norway and Burma, was the force behind the Hill State Movement that culminated in the statehood of Meghalaya. Swell’s candidature was pushed by former Prime Minister V P Singh and the BJP backed him.

While Sharma got 6,75,804 votes, Swell got 3,46,485 votes. Two others were in the fray – the indefatigable Ram Jethmalani, who got 2,704 votes and the famous Kaka Joginder Singh alias Dharti-Pakad, who got 1,135 votes. Singh, who passed away in 1998, has contested over 300 elections and lost every time.

In 2007, the country got its first woman president after UPA-Left nominee Pratibha Patil defeated the BJP’s Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. (Photo: Express Archive)

* In 1987, the Left parties fielded legal luminary and former judge of the Supreme Court Justice V R Krishna Iyer against incumbent vice president R Venkataraman. It was an easy victory for Venkataraman, who got 7,40,148 votes as against Iyer’s 2,81,550. The third contestant, Mithilesh Kumar, an Independent candidate from Bihar, got only 2,223 votes.

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The elections became politically interesting as incumbent president Giani Zail Singh, whose equations with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had hit a low, was prodded to contest as an Independent candidate by some Congress dissidents and Devi Lal of the Lok Dal(B), whose party had just won the elections in Haryana. But Singh did not throw his hat in the ring.

* In 1982, nine Opposition parties fielded H R Khanna, the crusader judge of the Emergency fame against the Congress’s Zail Singh. A former judge of the Supreme Court, Khanna had resigned from his post in protest against the appointment of Justice M H Baig as the Chief Justice of India in 1977. Khanna came into prominence a year before when he disagreed with the majority judges that Article 21 can be suspended by the declaration of Emergency. Singh got 7,54,113 votes as against 2,82,685 votes polled by Khanna.

* In 1977, President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed passed away. Vice President B D Jatti assumed office as acting President. An election to fill the vacancy was required to be held within six months. Interestingly, 37 candidates filed their nominations but on scrutiny, all nominations but one were rejected. The only valid nomination was that of Congress’s Neelam Sanjiva Reddy who was elected India’s sixth President.

* The sixth Presidential election was held in 1974. The Congress fielded Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. The joint Opposition candidate was the veteran Tridib Chaudhuri, founder member and general secretary of the Revolutionary Socialist Party. He was a member of Lok Sabha from Baharampur in West Bengal. Ahmed won comfortably, securing 7,65,587 votes as against Chaudhuri’s 1,89,196.

Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed was the sixth President of India. (Photo: Express Archive)

* The most controversial election in independent India’s history took place in May 1969 after Zakir Hussain, the third President, passed away suddenly. Under Article 65(1) of the Constitution, the Vice-President V V Giri assumed office as acting President. However he resigned in July 1969 as Vice President and also as the acting President.

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The simmering tension in the Congress party – the tussle for supremacy between Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and a band of veterans known as the syndicate – came to a head during these elections. The party’s official candidate was Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy but Gandhi threw her weight behind Giri, who contested as an Independent candidate. Gandhi famously called on her party MPs and MLAs to vote according to conscience. Reddy lost and the party split after then president S Nijalingappa expelled Gandhi from the party.

While Giri secured 4,01,515 votes, Reddy got 3,13,548 votes. C D Deshmukh, who contested as a candidate of the Swatantra Party and the Jana Sangh, came third with 1,12,769 votes. There were 12 more candidates in the fray. The changes in the law to prevent non-serious candidates from entering the fray were framed after this election.

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* The fourth Presidential election was held in 1967. The Congress’s candidate was Vice President Zakir Hussain. He won 4,71,244 votes defeating Kota Subbarao who secured 3,63,971 votes. Subbarao, who had retired as the Chief Justice of India that year, was the consensus candidate of the Opposition parties.

* The third Presidential election was held in 1962 after the second term of Rajendra Prasad as President expired in May that year. Vice President Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan was fielded by the Congress. He got 5,53,067 votes as against 6,341 votes of Chowdhry Hari Ram, who had contested earlier too. A third candidate, Yamuna Prasad Trisulia, got 3,537 votes.

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* The second Presidential election was held in 1957 after the term of Rajendra Prasad, India’s first President, expired in May. Prasad was fielded again by the Congress. It was a no-contest. Prasad got 4,59,698 votes. Those who contested against him were Nagendra Narayan Das, who got 2,000 votes, and Chowdhry Hari Ram, who secured 2,672 votes.

* The first election was held in 1952. Again, a no-contest. While Rajendra Prasad got 5,07,400 votes, Chaudhary Hari Ram, who entered the fray as he did not want Prasad to be elected unopposed, got 1,954 votes. The Left fielded K T Shah, who got 92,827 votes. Shah, an alumnus of the London School of Economics, was a member of the Constituent Assembly. The two other contestants were Thatte Lakshman Ganesh (2,672 votes) and Krishna Kumar Chatterjee (533 votes).

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First published on: 09-06-2022 at 09:05:05 pm

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