With the Uttar Pradesh verdict, the BJP is just one step away from getting its candidate elected President to stamp its hold on the country’s polity. The BJP-led NDA is now so close to the majority mark for the presidential election that it needs the additional votes of just one party, which can be either the AIADMK or the BJD. If not, the deficit can still be covered by a combination of the TRS and the YSRCP.
Pranab Mukherjee completes his term in July. The new President will chosen by the elected members of both Houses of Parliament and assemblies of the states and Union territories. Their votes are weighted: each MP contributes 708 votes while the value of an MLA’s vote varies in accordance with the 1971 population of the state s/he represents. The total pool is nearly 10.99 lakh votes — half comes from 4,120 MLAs and the other half from 776 MPs.
With the victory in UP and additional seats won in other states, the BJP and its allies, including those in the Northeast and J&K, now hold over 47.5 per cent of the pool. For the remaining 2.5 per cent, the AIADMK (5.4% ) and BJD (3.4%) are capable of covering the deficit individually. Otherwise, the YSR Congress (nearly 2%) and the TRS (1.6%) add up to more than the deficit. All these four parties have a predilection for going with the ruling party at the Centre unless its direct interests are served better by opposing it.
On the other hand, strained ties with the Shiv Sena could be a potential hurdle for the BJP in the presidential race. The Sena, which holds nearly 2.4 per cent of the current pool, has a history of ditching the BJP in presidential elections; it had backed Congress nominees Pratibha Patil (2007) and Mukherjee (2012). The Sena remains in touch with the regional parties opposed to the BJP — it participated in the Trinamool Congress march to Rashtrapati Bhavan against demonetisation — and can possibly join hands with them to spite the dominant coalition partner. The BJP has reduced the tension by backing the Sena’s nominee in the Mumbai mayoral elections.
The BJP owes its current position largely to Uttar Pradesh, whose assembly contributes 7.6 per cent to the presidential pool. The BJP and its allies have won over 80 per cent of the assembly, or six per cent of the presidential pool, while their new MLAs in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur together bring in a little over half a per cent.
In 2012, the Congress, leading the UPA, was able to get Mukherjee elected with ease. Mukherjee secured 7.13 lakh votes, or 69.3 per cent of the votes polled, to defeat BJP-backed Purno A Sangma who polled 30.69 per cent. Though the ruling coalition controlled only 33.2 per cent of the electoral college, it managed to mobilise the support of the Sena as well as the JD(U), then a BJP ally, besides the SP, CPM, the Trinamool Congress and the BSP.
Five years on, the roles are reversed. The BJP has won power at the Centre and seized states such as Maharashtra, Assam, Jharkhand, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh, and now Uttar Pradesh, while the Congress has also lost Andhra Pradesh to TDP, a friend of the BJP.