Its Patil vs Shekhawat in the fight for Rashtrapati Bhavan


New Delhi : The fight for the president is a straight contest between the United Progressive Alliance's Pratibha Patil and Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, it was confirmed Monday after all others in the fray were ruled out during scrutiny.

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Four sets of nomination papers submitted by the ruling UPA-Left-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) combine's Patil and two filed by the opposition backed Shekhawat were the only ones found valid after scrutiny, said Lok Sabha Secretary General P.D.T. Achary, the returning officer for the July 19 presidential polls.

"All other nomination papers were found invalid," Achary told reporters at a press conference here.

He said 72 other candidates had filed their nominations, but none fulfilled all the requirements needed to contest for the country's highest constitutional post.

None could attach the signatures of at least 50 proposers and as many seconders, mandatory for filing their papers, and some did not even deposit the required Rs.15,000.

In the 2002 presidential elections, 60 non-serious candidates had filed papers.

The Presidential and Vice Presidential Act, 1952, was amended in 1997 to make it compulsory for the nomination paper of a candidate to be subscribed by at least 50 proposers and seconders from the electoral college of MPs and MLAs, which elects the president.

Initially, there were no restrictions for contesting the presidential election. The act was first amended in 1974 to insist that the candidate should have 10 proposers and seconders each. It was later increased to 50 in 1997.

Filing of nomination had begun on June 16 and ended on June 30. The last day of withdrawal is Wednesday.

Although Patil's victory appears to be a foregone conclusion as the UPA and its allies have majority in the 1.09 million strong electoral college, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led opposition's charges against her have evoked an extraordinary interest in the presidential poll.

The BJP-led opposition has announced support for Shekhawat, who is contesting as an independent.