History and lesser-known facts about presidential polls

As the country awaits the results of the 15th presidential election, which has BJP-led NDA’s Ramnath Kovind pitted against the Opposition’s Meira Kumar, here is a quick look at some lesser-known facts of the polls since they were first held in 1952.

After Independence, the first presidential election was held on May 2
After Independence, the first presidential election was held on May 2(Reuters)

As the country awaits the results of the 15th presidential election, which has BJP-led NDA’s Ramanth Kovind pitted against the Opposition’s Meira Kumar, here is a quick look at some lesser-known facts of the polls since they were first held in 1952.

*After Independence, the first presidential election was held on May 2 and the results declared four days later. Dr Rajendra Prasad, with 5,07,400 votes, was declared the winner.

*The first four presidential elections were held in May. But since 1977, the polls for the country’s highest office have shifted to July.

*In 1957, Prasad won the election for the second time. Till date, he is the only person to hold the President’s office for two terms.

*When Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan won the third presidential election, the value of an MP’s vote was just 493. Now, the value of an MP’s vote has gone up to 708. The value of votes for this election had to be calculated on the basis of 1951 census, since the 1961 census figures were not published.

*In the fourth elections, held in 1967, 17 contestants were in the fray for the top job. Zakir Hussain, who polled 4,71,244 votes was declared the winner. Nine contestants polled zero votes. Hussain was the first President who died while in office.

*The fifth presidential poll was the first time when the fate of candidates was decided through second preference votes. Also, for the first time, strict secrecy of voting was ensured, serial numbers on the back of the ballot papers were covered with coloured slips of paper pasted at the four corners. For the first time in suitable cases, some MLAs were allowed to cast their votes at Parliament House instead of state capitals.

*The sixth election in 1974 had the Election Commission introduce newer rules. To ensure only serious contenders were in the fray, the government amended the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Act, 1952. It mandated that the nomination paper of a presidential candidate had to be subscribed by at least 10 electors as proposers and 10 electors as seconders. A security deposit of Rs 2,500 was also announced.

*This is was the first time when a President -- Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy-- was elected unopposed.

*In 1982, the eighth presidential election was fought between Giani Zail Singh and HR Khanna, with the former emerging the winner.

*Shanker Dayal Sharma was elected President in the 10th election in 1992. Noted lawyer and Rajya Sabha MP Ram Jethmalani was his opponent.

*In 1997, KR Narayanan became the 10th President after beating former chief election commissioner TN Seshan, who is credited with ushering in electoral reforms, putting curbs on the use of money and muscle. But Seshan could poll only 50,631 votes of the total 10,06,921.

*In 2002, the BJP and Congress came together with other parties to support ‘missile man’ APJ Abdul Kalam. It was the last time when the two major parties came together to support a presidential candidate.
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