The President of India is considered the most powerful authority in India. Under Article 52 the President is mentioned as the First Citizen of the Country.
The President isn’t directly elected by the citizens of the country. The elected Members of the Parliament (the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha) and the elected Members of the Legislative Assemblies of the State (Vidhan Sabha) give their votes for the election of the President of India. This forms the electoral college for the election of the President. The term elected members is very important here. Since the members of the Vidhan Parishad aren’t directly elected by the citizens of the country, they are not eligible to vote for the Presidential elections. The Members of the Parliament who are directly chosen by the President i.e., the two Anglo-Indians plus the 12 Rajya Sabha Members, are not allowed to vote for the Presidential Elections.
Another thing to note here is that every vote doesn’t hold the same value. This means that the vote of a MP representing a state with higher population may hold higher value than that MP’s vote who represents a state with lesser population. This is done to make the election of the President representative only. In an attempt to do that, a sort of normalization is applied when considering the votes given by the Members of the Parliament and the votes given by the Members of the Legislative Assembly. As there are and there will be a lot more members in the Legislative Assembly of all the states put together than in the Parliament, 50% weightage is given to the votes of the Members of the Parliament and 50% weightage is given to the votes of the Members of the Legislative Assembly.
The process of election of the President of India is original and no other Constitution contains a similar procedure. The question was considerably debated in the Constituent Assembly. It was argued by many members that the electoral college consisting of the elected members of Central Legislature as well as those of the Legislative Assemblies of the States was not sufficiently representative of Peoples’ will. Some members, therefore, favored the system of direct election by the people instead of an indirect round-about method, because such a system would be most democratic and it would make the President a direct choice of the nation. This was, however, not accepted. The main reasons which influenced the deliberations of the Constituent Assembly for determining indirect Presidential election are:
(1) Firstly, in a country following the Cabinet system of Government, the office of titular Chief Executive is a technical one, to the extent that its duties are largely prescribed by other authorities (usually by the Legislature), which requires specific competence for the performance of its duties from the incumbent. Very few voters can be competent to judge wisely of the technical abilities of the candidates for any particular office of this type, having specific, limited and defined functions.
(2) Secondly, if the direct election of the President were adopted, the Presidential candidate who has to carry on an election campaign from one corner of the country to another will certainly be put up by some party or the other, which may cause political excitement and generate party feelings. Thus the man elected to the Presidential office through this means will never be able to forget his party affiliations. So the ideal of getting a non-party man outside the turmoil of party passions and reasonably respected by all factions to assume the role of the head of the State will be defeated. Further, as India is almost a sub-continent with crores of enfranchised citizens, it would be impossible to provide an electoral machinery for the purpose of smooth and successful Presidential election.
(3) Lastly, a directly elected Chief Executive may not be content with his position of a mere constitutional head and can claim to derive his authority directly from the people. So, if he wanted to assume real power, it would lead to a constitutional deadlock and an inevitable clash with the Cabinet or real executive. This would definitely produce a confusion of responsibility.
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Author: Akshay Palande
Akshay Palande is a passionate teacher helping hundreds of students in their UPSC preparation. With a degree in Mechanical Engineering and double masters in Public Administration and Economics, he has experience of teaching UPSC aspirants for 5 years. His subject of expertise are Geography, Polity, Economics and Environment and Ecology.