How India picks its President

If you haven't decided whom to vote for in the upcoming election for the next President of India – to be held on July 17 – don't worry. Unless you're an MP or an MLA, you don't get to vote.

Unlike most of India's elected representatives, who must battle it out for citizens' votes, the President of India is instead chosen by an electoral college. The electoral college comprises the elected members of the Parliament (MPs) and state legislative assemblies (MLAs). Nominated members are, like the rest of us, unable to vote.

There are 4,896 electors in the electoral college: 4,120 MLAs and 776 MPs.

In normal elections, everyone’s vote is counted equally. In a presidential election, however, electors’ votes are worth more or less depending upon their job titles. In general, MPs’ votes are worth more than MLAs’, and MLAs from bigger states count more than those from smaller ones.

The total value adds to 10,98,903

The Constitution of India lays out the process for calculating each elector’s worth. There are two guiding principles.

First, in order to uphold the principle of federalism, neither the Union government nor the state assemblies, taken together, should be able to overrule each other. So, the combined value of all the MPs’ votes is roughly equal to the combined value of all the MLAs’.

Value of votes of all MPs 5,49,408

Value of votes of all MLAs 5,49,495

Each MP’s vote contributes 708 points to the pool, but the value of MLAs’ votes depend on their state. That’s because of the second guiding principle: the value of each MLA’s vote should be proportional to the number of citizens he or she represents.

More populous states have a greater stake
Value of each state assembly

For instance, Mamata Banerjee’s vote as an MLA from West Bengal is worth 151 points, nearly three times as much as Arvind Kejriwal’s in Delhi, which is worth 58 points. Why is Banerjee’s vote worth more than Kejriwal’s? Because she represents more people. If you want to get technical, the value of each MLA’s vote is calculated by dividing the population of the state by the number of MLAs, and then multiplying that figure by 1000.

Let’s compare an MP, an MLA from Uttar Pradesh, whose vote is worth the most, and one from Sikkim, whose vote is worth the least.

Voting to elect India’s 14th President will take place on July 17, and counting will be held on July 20.

To win, NDA’s (BJP and allies) candidate Ram Nath Kovind must secure more than half of the value of all valid votes. With the recent addition of the Shiv Sena and Janata Dal (U), so far, the NDA have 55% of the vote on their side. The opposition has %. Other parties are yet to decide their preferences.

If align with the NDA, they will have % votes.
Victory line

Last updated: 11:15pm on July 20, 2017. Data source: PRS Legislative Research

Because the anti-defection law is not applicable in the Presidential election, electors are not bound to vote along party lines, and the voting is done by secret ballot.

Saubhadra Chatterji contributed to this report.