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1969 Presidential polls saw 'conscience vote'
July 08, 2007 16:45 IST
The Pratibha Patil-Bhairon Singh Shekhawat battle is the most controvery ridden, but it was the 1969 Presidential poll that was the most suspense-ridden contest ever fought.
The election saw V V Giri, an independent backed by Indira Gandhi [Images] defeating official Congress nominee Neelam Sanjiva Reddy by a margin of 14,650 votes.
As neither candidate could secure the qualifying vote in the first count, the decision rested on the second preference votes.
In fact the term 'conscience vote' in Indian political parlance was the gift of that exciting and dramatic election as Gandhi, caught in an intense factional fight with a group of party leaders, sought to ensure greater support for Giri.
Giri, who was the Vice President, had resigned from the post to take on Reddy who was the Lok Sabha Speaker. Though Reddy lost in 1969, he won the Presidential race eight years later in 1977 without a contest as the nomination papers of 36 others in the fray were rejected by the Returning Officer.
Though 'conscience vote' is being sought to be again brought into currency in the July 19 poll by the backers of Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, the scenario is totally different in 2007 as against in 1969.
The 1969 election witnessed the Election Commission introducing an innovation to ensure strict secrecy of voting by covering the serial numbers on the back of ballot papers with coloured slips.
During that election, the ballot papers were shuffled three or four times during the polling so that the agents of the candidates find it difficult to note down the serial numbers to identify votes cast by members during counting.
It was also for the first time that some MLAs were allowed to cast their votes at Parliament House in New Delhi instead of their state capitals.
The first President Rajendra Prasad was elected in 1952 and got over 5 lakh votes out of the total of 6.05 lakh votes polled.
The second election for him was a cake walk as in 1957 he polled over 4.59 lakh votes out of the total 4.64 lakh votes. It was a similar story when Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan became President in 1962.
However, 1967 saw a fight when Zakir Hussain got just one lakh votes more than his nearest rival Kota Subba Rao in an election where 15 other candidates were also there.