Even if the presidential election didn’t generate the kind of fanfare that a general election does, they’ve had their share of big fights, close contests, and turmoil and turmoil—from the brilliant 1969 political opinion polls that split the then-great ruling Congress. To the 1997 elections when the BJP backed the ruling coalition candidate, forcing former Election Commission Chairman T.N. Sechan to enter the fray.
On Thursday, the Election Commission of India announced schedule For the 16th presidential election. Here’s a look at the previous fifteen:
* The last presidential election was held in 2017. The opposition had pitted former House Speaker Lok Sabha Mera Kumar against President Ram Nath Kovind. She had the support of 17 opposition parties, including the Samajwadi Party and the BSP. Surprisingly, the JD (U) party, then in the opposition camp, abandoned him and gave support to Kovind. While Kovind got 702,044 votes, Kumar got 3,67,314 votes. Kovind received 65.65 percent of the vote.
* In 2012, UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee became the 13th President of India with a vote value of 7,13,763 (69 per cent) beating the Bharatiya Janata Party (PA Sangma) which received 30.7 per cent of the votes with a vote value of 7,13,763 (69 per cent). It is 3,15,987.
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* In 2007, the country secured its first female president after defeating the leftist UPP candidate Pratibha Patil over the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Bhairon Singh Shekhawat by 306,810 votes. Shiv Sena, who was then a member of the NDA, had supported Patel, who was from Maharashtra. While Patel received 6,38,116 votes, Shekhawat received 331,306 votes. The strength of the Electoral College at that time was 9,69,422.
* In 2002, the Congress and most of the opposition parties decided to support the selection of the world famous BJP ABJ Abdul Kalam. But the left parties did not join them and sent Captain Lakshmi Sajal. It was a one-sided contest. While Kalam received 9,22,884 out of a total of 10,30,250 votes, Sahgal received 1,07,366 votes.
* One of the most one-sided elections in modern history was in 1997 when KR Narayanan was introduced by parties into the United Front government and supported by the Congress and the BJP, the main opposition party at the time. Narayanan was elected the 10th president with 956,290 votes. His rival, former Election Commissioner T.N. Sichan, received only 50,361 votes and lost his security deposit. Seshan has the support of Shiv Sena and some independent MLAs.
* In 1992, Congressman Shankar Dayal Sharma also comfortably won. The opposition then fielded George Gilbert Sowell, a veteran Member of Parliament and former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Lok Sabha. Soil, a Christian and tribal from Meghalaya, former Indian envoy to Norway and Burma, was the force behind the Hill State movement that culminated in the establishment of the state of Meghalaya. Swell’s candidacy was pushed by former Prime Minister VP Singh and supported by the BJP.
While Sharma received 6,75,804 votes, Sewell received 3,46,485 votes. There were two others in the fray – the indefatigable Ram Jethmalani, who received 2,704 votes, and the famous Kaka Joginder Singh known as Dharti-Pakad, who received 1,135 votes. Singh died in 1998 and has run more than 300 elections, losing each time.
* In 1987, Left Parties brought prominent legal figure and former High Court Justice of R Krishna Iyer against incumbent Vice President R Venkataraman. It was an easy win for Venkataraman, who received 740,148 votes to Ayer’s 281.550 votes. The third contender, Mithlish Kumar, an independent candidate from Bihar, received only 2,223 votes.
The election became politically interesting as incumbent President Gianni Zel Singh, whose tie with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi has fallen apart, was urged to run as an independent candidate by some dissidents in Congress and Devi Lal of Lok Dal (B), whose party had just won the Elections in Haryana. But Singh did not throw his hat in the ring.
* In 1982, nine opposing parties submitted HR Khanna, a crusader judge for emergency fame against Congressional leader Zeil Singh. Khanna, a former justice of the Supreme Court, resigned in protest of the appointment of Justice MH Paige as Chief Justice of India in 1977. Khanna emerged a year ago when he disagreed with majority judges that Article 21 could be suspended by declaring a state of emergency. Singh received 7,54,113 votes to 2,82,685 in the Khanna poll.
* President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed passed away in 1977. Vice President BD Jatti took office as Acting President. An election was required to fill the vacancy within six months. Interestingly, 37 candidates submitted their nominations, but after scrutiny, all but one of the nominations were rejected. The only valid nomination was Congress candidate Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, who was elected as India’s sixth president.
* The sixth presidential election was held in 1974, and the Congress dismissed Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. The joint opposition candidate was veteran Trideep Chaudhry, founding member and general secretary of the Revolutionary Socialist Party. He was a member of Lok Sabha from Baharampur in West Bengal. Ahmed comfortably won, receiving 7,65,587 votes to Choudary’s 1,89,196.
* The most controversial election in the history of independent India took place in May 1969 after the sudden death of the third president, Zakir Hussain. Under Section 65 (1) of the Constitution, Vice President F. Jerry is the acting president. However, he resigned in July 1969 as Vice President and also as Acting President.
Rising tension in the Congress party – the struggle for sovereignty between Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and a group of war veterans known as the union – came to a head during this election. The party’s official candidate was Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, but Gandhi threw her weight behind Giri, who ran as an independent candidate. Gandhi called on her party’s MPs and MLAs to vote in accordance with conscience. Reddy lost and the party split after President Negalingapa Gandhi was expelled from the party.
While Jerry received 4,01,515 votes, Reddy received 3,13,548 votes. CD Deshmukh, who contested the nomination for the Swatantra Party and Jana Sangh, came third with 1,12,769 votes. There were 12 other candidates in the battle. Changes in the law were worded to prevent unserious candidates from entering the fray after this election.
* The fourth presidential election took place in 1967. The congress candidate was Vice President Zakir Hussain. He received 4,71,244 votes, beating Kota Subbarao who received 3,63,971 votes. Subbarao, who retired as Chief Justice of India that year, was the consensus candidate of the opposition parties.
* The third presidential election was held in 1962 after Rajendra Prasad’s second term as president ended in May of that year. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan Vice President has been appointed by the Congress. He got 5,53,067 votes to 6,341 votes for Chaudhry Hari Ram, who had also competed earlier. The third candidate, Yamuna Prasad Trisulia, received 3,537 votes.
* The second presidential election was held in 1957 after the term of Rajendra Prasad, India’s first president, expired in May. Prasad was sent back by the Congress. It was no contest. Prasad received 4,59,698 votes. Those who objected to it were Nagendra Narayan Das, who got 2,000 votes, and Chowdhry Hari Ram, who got 2,672 votes.
* The first elections took place in 1952. Again, there is no competition. While Rajendra Prasad received 5,07,400 votes, Chaudhry Hari Ram, who entered the fray because he did not want Prasad to be elected unopposed, received 1,954 votes. The left sent KT Shah, who received 92,827 votes. Shah, a graduate of the London School of Economics, was a member of the Constituent Assembly. The other two contenders are That Lakshman Ganesh (2,672 votes) and Krishna Kumar Chatterjee (533 votes).