2017 presidential elections: Why the assembly tests matter for BJP

  • Saubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Apr 11, 2016 20:54 IST
State BJP workers celebrating after Chief Minister Raghubar Das and his cabinet approval the Domicile and local resident policy at Albert Ekka Chowk in Ranchi (Hindustan Times)

To push its luck in the 2017 Presidential contest, the BJP needs to fare well in the ongoing elections in five assemblies and early next year’s state polls, besides trying to win them to expand its national footprint.

The ruling party falls short of 1.85 lakh votes required to win the prestigious battle that involves an electoral college of 10.98 lakh votes.

Even the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) — an alliance of 39 parties that fought the 2014 Lok Sabha polls — doesn’t add up to the required majority of 5.49 lakh votes.

Unlike the Lok Sabha or the assembly polls, where millions of Indian voters directly decide the winners, the President is elected by an electoral college comprising of MPs and MLAs.

Though the support of big regional parties like the AIADMK (Tamil Nadu), Trinamool Congress (West Bengal) or Biju Janata Dal (Orissa) may help the BJP-led NDA secure majority support, it will still face the challenge of picking a candidate who enjoys wide acceptance. In the 2012 Presidential polls, both J Jayalalithaa and Naveen Patnaik, along with the BJP, had supported Purno A Sangma against Pranab Mukherjee, the UPA’s candidate.

Between now and July 2017 when the next President is elected, 10 states will have elected new assemblies. These include Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Punjab, Goa and Uttarakhand, and the union territory of Puducherry. A strong show of the BJP in these states, especially in Uttar Pradesh where MLAs’ votes have a total value of 83,824, may allow the party the political leeway needed to pick its own nominee or RSS candidate.

In the Presidential election, each MLA vote carries a value proportionate to the population of the state as per the 1971 census. With Uttar Pradesh being the most populous state, an MLA from there has the highest value (403), while a legislator from Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh has the least value (8).

The BJP suffered a setback in 2015 when it lost both assembly polls in Bihar and Delhi. Improving its tally in the elections being held now and in early next year will also help the ruling party gain an upper hand over the Congress-led opposition in the Rajya Sabha, where many key bills are stuck.

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