- Model code of conduct during elections
- Polling and counting of votes
- Popular participation in elections
- Challenges to free and fair elections
The Election Commission is a constitutional body which is independent from the government. The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) is appointed by the President of India. Once the election dates are announced, it is impossible to remove the CEC. Moreover, the whole civil administration comes under the Election Commission after the election dates are announced. These provisions ensure that the Election Commission remains and independent and impartial body. Hence, it can be said that elections in India are really democratic.
Model Code of Conduct
One the election dates are announced the model code of conduct is enforced by the Election Commission. This code of conduct prohibits the following:
- Use of any place of worship for election propaganda.
- Use of government vehicles, officials or aircraft for election campaign.
- Laying of foundation stone for any project and announcing any big ticket programme.
Polling and Counting of Votes
India is one of the few countries where electronic voting machines (EVMs) are used for voting. One needs to press the button against the electoral symbol of his choice to register a vote. EVMs provide many benefits compared to traditional ballot papers. EVMs are lightweight and much less number of EVMs is required to cover a constituency. Counting of votes is less time consuming and more accurate through EVMs. Now-a-days, even paper trail can be printed from an EVM. It is because of the use of EVMs that poll results are announced within a day of beginning of counting.
During the days of ballot papers, carrying the ballot boxes to and from the polling booth used to be a tedious task. Counting of votes used to take three to four days. Chances of malpractices were far too high.
Contrary to perceptions, the popular participation in elections in India has shown an increasing trend. The recent assembly elections held in four states in 2013, saw voter turnout up to 80% in some constituencies.
It is usually the voters from the poor class which participate with full zest in the Indian elections. People from the middle classes and upper classes usually show aloofness towards the electoral process. But the recent assembly elections surprisingly saw a very high turnout from the middle classes and upper classes as well.
These are signs of a vibrating democracy where people are taking active interest in the electoral process.
Acceptance of Election Outcomes
It is often blamed that too many malpractices take place in the elections in India. But this is nothing but a perception and reality can be quite different. The following facts indicate towards the democratic nature of elections in India.
- Ruling parties routinely lose elections in India. In many states, a particular political party is not able to continue in power for more than one term.
- A large number of sitting MLAs and MPs lose elections.
- Many politicians with money and muscle power lose elections.
- Electoral outcomes are usually accepted by the losing political party as people's verdict and the life goes on.
Challenges to Free and Fair Elections
Candidates from big political parties enjoy an advantage in terms of money and resources. This does not allow a level playing field for smaller parties and independent candidates.
People with criminal background are well entrenched in some constituencies.
Some families have been dominating different political parties. This trend rules out the possibility of a new entrant rising up.
The major political parties are more or less similar in their policies and programmes and thus voters may not have a real choice.