New Delhi : When the ruling alliance's presidential candidate Pratibha Patil filed her nomination Saturday for the July 19 poll, hers was not the first name. There were 12 nominations already filed by independents.
The poll, expected to be a straight fight between Patil of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, would most likely see the others rejected.
Although the constitution has provisions to restrict the number of non-serious candidates in the presidential election, there is no dearth of independents this time.
However, not many of these candidates have met the basic eligibility criteria for candidature. Of the 12 independents from different states, only two have submitted their nomination papers with the mandatory 50 signatures of MPs or MLAs to propose and second them.
"It (the number of independents) may go up further," said an official in the Lok Sabha secretariat.
"It is due to the ambiguity in the law. Although the Presidential and Vice Presidential Act, 1952, was amended in 1997 to insist that the nomination paper of a candidate should be subscribed by at least 50 proposers and seconders, it did not say one cannot file the nomination without them," said Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi.
While the act says the candidate should pay Rs.15,000 as security deposit, "many do not give the security deposit", Dasmunsi said.
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. Later it was increased to 50 in 1997.
Although it is clear that most of these nominations will be rejected during scrutiny on July 2, they will be given a chance to make their observations.
"It is a painful and tiring process. The officers and the representatives of the serious candidates have to sit through the entire process," said an official who did not want to be named.
"In 2003, the process went on from morning to 5.30 p.m.," he said. In 2002, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was a consensus candidate of the then ruling National Democratic Alliance and the main opposition Congress, while the Left parties had fielded Lakshmi Sahgal.