Polls to elect the 15th President of India will be held on July 17 for which the nomination process will begin from June 14 with the issuance of a notification, the Election Commission announced on Wednesday.
The counting of votes will take place on July 20 in New Delhi where all the ballot boxes will be brought.
Both the ruling National Democratic Alliance and the opposition are yet open their cards on the presidential candidate. While the ruling alliance is likely to announce its nominee in the next few days, the opposition is seeking to unite all non-NDA parties under a common platform to put up a consensus candidate for the presidential election.
As per the schedule, June 28 is the last day for nominations, while a candidate can withdraw from the electoral battle till July 1. If there is no consensus between the NDA and the opposition, the number of serious candidates in the fray will be clear by July 1 evening.
Various opposition parties have already held deliberations and have decided to set up a sub group that is likely to meet within a week to build consensus on a joint candidate.
The electorate, comprising elected Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha members and members of state assemblies, is tilted in favour of the NDA, but the opposition is trying to woo some regional parties to support their candidate.
The tenure of the present incumbent, Pranab Mukherjee, comes to an end on July 24.
The electoral college which elects the President through the system of proportional representation, comprises MPs and members of state legislative assemblies. A total of 4896 voters --- 4120 MLAs and 776 elected MPs -- are eligible to cast their ballot. MLCs of states with legislative councils are not part of the electoral college.
While the Lok Sabha Speaker, an elected member, can vote, the two nominated members in the Lower House from the Anglo-Indian community cannot. 12 nominated members in Rajya Sabha are also ineligible.
Since the election is through a secret ballot, the parties cannot issue a whip to their members to vote for a particular candidate, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi told a press conference in New Delhi.
Responding to a question, he said the election to 10 Rajya Sabha seats, postponed earlier due to presidential polls and EVM challenge held last week, would now be held after the Presidential election.
He said the 10 members would be retiring after the presidential elections and are entitled to vote in the July 17 poll.
When asked whether the 20 AAP MLAs, against whom the EC is hearing a petition seeking their disqualification for allegedly holding office of profit, can vote in the polls, he said "as on today" they can vote. Originally, the case was against 21 MLAs, but one had resigned.
A total of 13 vacancies in Lok Sabha and state assemblies will be filled up after the presidential elections, he said.
Incidentally, Zaidi is retiring on July 7 and will not be in office when the results are notified by the commission.
In 2012, the election to the President's office was announced on June 12 and held on July 19. The term of Mukherjee as the President commenced on July 25.
This time, the Lok Sabha secretary general will be the returning officer. Last time, it was the secretary general of Rajya Sabha.