New Delhi: The upcoming Assembly elections in five states – Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur, and Goa – have more at stake for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) than meets the eye. For, at least for the ruling BJP, winning these elections will also mean getting the numbers right to ensure that its presidential candidate wins the next election to decide the occupant of the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
The five-year term of President Ram Nath Kovind term ends in July 2022.
To understand why state elections matter, one must see the process of electing the Head of State. The President is elected by the members of an Electoral College consisting of the elected members of both Houses of Parliament, and the elected members of the Legislative Assemblies of the states.
In the case of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs, the value of each of their votes is the same at 708. At the same time, the value of each MLA’s vote is determined based on the state’s Assembly seats and population, which is why Uttar Pradesh becomes a great asset for the BJP.
The value of a vote of an MLA from UP is 208. In the other states seeing elections the vote share in Punjab is 116, Uttarakhand 64, Manipur 18, and Goa 20.
At present, the total number of votes in the Electoral College are 10,98,882, out of which National Democratic Alliance (NDA) – which is led by the BJP – has 5,43,062. This is about 0.05% less than the majority mark.
The total value of votes of all MPs of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha combined are 5,49,408. The total value of votes of 4,120 MLAs from all the states of the country is 5,49,474. Therefore, the total votes in the presidential election are 10,98,882 and to win, a candidate needs 5,49,442 votes.
The biggest strength for the BJP and the NDA is that it has a clear majority of 334 MPs out of 530 in the Lok Sabha. At the same time, NDA’s strength is 116 out of 232 MPs in Rajya Sabha. The ruling alliance enjoys a majority in the House on the strength of 3 nominated MPs but a major point here is that nominated members cannot vote in Presidential elections.
NDA has a total of 1,761 seats out of 4,033 assembly seats, but with states and their tallies making all the difference in the votes, it is clear that many of the states where NDA is ruling are also states with fewer vote value. There are states like Tamil Nadu, where the vote value is 176, but there are others like Arunachal Pradesh where each MLA’s vote value is just 8 or Sikkim where it is just 7.
On the other hand, West Bengal, ruled by Trinamool Congress (TMC), has a value of 151. Jharkhand where the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Congress alliance is in power has 176 votes; and Maharashtra – ruled again by a coalition of Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Congress – has a value of 175.
In the five states where elections are being held, including UP, there is a total value of 1,03,756 votes for the presidential election at stake. This number is 10 per cent of the total voters of the presidential election and 80 per cent of these votes are from UP. Except Punjab, BJP is at present in government in all other states but the value of these states is low when it comes to the presidential elections.
Goa has only 40 MLAs and Manipur has only 60 MLAs. In Uttarakhand this number is 70. On the other hand, in the case of Punjab, the value of the vote of an MLA there is 116, but BJP’s chances of a win here are slim due to the farmers agitation against the now-repealed three farm laws. The agitation was led by the Sikh farmers from Punjab for over a year.
So BJP’s best bet is a win in UP, where currently it has 317 MLAs.
Experts claim that even if BJP loses 100 seats in UP, it still has a chance of winning with the help of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. In Odisha, there’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD) which had supported Ram Nath Kovind in the last elections. BJD has 16,837 votes from its MLAs and 14,868 votes from 21 MPs.
In Andhra Pradesh, YSR Congress Party had also supported the incumbent President’s election. It has 151 MLAs in Andhra Pradesh Assembly, and the value of the votes of these legislators in the presidential election is 26,250. At the same time, the party has 28 MPs in Parliament and the value of their votes is 19,824.
Lastly, in the case of Telangana, there is Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) which had also supported President Kovind’s election. They have 103 MLAs, whose vote value is 13,596 and it also has 16 MPs, whose vote value is 11,328. Their support may be doubtful due to the ongoing tussle between the TRS and the BJP in the state. Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao had recently met Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav – with the meeting being linked to the presidential election.
Another interesting scenario could be if the opposition jointly declares Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar as its candidate. With his name being floated before the formation of the government in Maharashtra, the signal is that Pawar could be their choice – and a real threat to the BJP as he is a popular leader, with friendship across the political divide.