Fears of rampant cross voting are behind the alarm in the ruling coalition over Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat’s decision to contest the presidential polls, despite the Opposition NDA not having enough votes in the electoral college.
Such a possibility would not only topple the ruling UPA nominee, but it can also brighten the rival candidate’s chances of victory in subsequent rounds of the preferential calculation of votes.
The gap between the UPA-Left and the NDA (with the backing of the third front) is one-lakh votes. But cross voting can reduce this to nothing as had happened during the fifth Presidential elections — when VV Giri pipped N Sanjiva Reddy to the post.
If none of the contestants secures a fixed quota of votes — one plus half of the valid votes polled and divided by two — the counting process is pushed into the preferential rounds.
Each voter can give as many preferences on the ballot paper as the number of candidates. But a ballot paper, even with a single preference, is not invalid.
To reach the target, the candidate with the lowest tally of votes is removed from the list. His votes are transferred to the remaining contestants according to the voters’ wishes. The elimination process continues till any of the candidates achieves the specified victory target.
The system of preferential rounds came into play for the first time in 1969 after the standoff between Indira Gandhi and the old Congress syndicate.
The official Congress nominee Neelam Sanjiva Reddy lost after his rival VV Giri garnered the fixed quota of votes after eliminating the remaining 13 candidates in preferential rounds. After this there has been no need to invoke the system.
Significantly, cross voting had helped Giri secure 4,01,515 votes against Reddy’s 3,13,548. The victory target for that poll was 4,18,169 votes. Once in contention, Giri gained in the preferential counting to emerge victorious.