- Voters should exercise their franchise during Lok Sabha polls: President
- President Kovind will confine only essential programmes during elections
- President is expected to play a critical role during government formation
President Ram Nath Kovind will keep a low profile during the Lok Sabha elections and confine himself only to essential programmes during the election period, NDTV has learnt. According to sources in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, only an Indian Air Force programme and a diplomatic visit have been scheduled.
In a distinct departure from his predecessor Pranab Mukherjee, President Kovind, in his address to the nation on the eve of the Republic Day, urged voters to go out and exercise their franchise during the Lok Sabha elections.
"An election is not just a political exercise. An election is a collective call to wisdom and a collective call to action.... It represents the diverse and yet singular urges of the people and the Republic of India. This makes the very act of voting a sacred act. Please perform this act," President Kovind said.
In his Republic Day speech in 2014, President Mukherjee had subtly asked for a stable government. He is one of this year's recipients of Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award from the government.
President Kovind is expected to play a critical and important role during the government formation, deciding who will be the next Prime Minister of India and enjoys the confidence of the Lok Sabha.
If no party gains absolute majority, the President has to use his discretion in deciding which political formation will be able to prove its majority on the floor of the house.
The debate has always been whether the single largest party should be called or the political formation of pre and post-poll alliance partners should be called.
Previous presidents have followed the example of former President KR Naryanan in the formation of coalition governments. This, however, is a precedent and under the Constitution, the President has the power to exercise his discretion to appoint a Prime Minister, which was exercised in 1984 after the assassination of Indira Gandhi
In 1996, then President Shankar Dayal Sharma called the single largest party, the BJP, and asked Atal Bihari Vajpayee to form a government, which lasted only for 13 days, as it was not able to prove its majority on the floor of the House.
Most political parties had criticised the decision and during the formation of government in 1998, then President KR Narayanan made a distinct departure, seeking letters of support from various political parties before deciding to invite Atal Bihari Vajpayee to form a government.