Elections are integral to democracy because we can elect our representative through elections and consequently a government is formed. Elections are no less than festivals in India. In this lesson, you will learn about the need of elections. You will also learn about electoral process in India in which you will learn about electoral constituency, election commission, voter ID card and counting of votes. At the end of the lesson, you will understand the factors which make elections in India democratic and largely free and fair.
Every adult citizen should be able to choose. This means that every adult citizen should have one vote and each vote shall carry equal weight.
Elections should offer choices to the people. There should be various political parties and candidates to choose from.
The choice of selecting the rulers should be offered at regular intervals. In India, elections are normally held after every five years.
The most preferred candidate should get elected. In India, we follow the first past the post system, i.e. the candidate who secures the maximum number of valid votes is declared a winner.
Elections should be held in free and fair manner and people should be in a position to cast their votes without fear or favour.
People often complain that political competition is not good for the society as it tends to breed unhealthy attitude and corruption. Politicians try to win an election by hook or crook. But we should look at the positives also. There are many examples of a powerful politician getting defeated in an election. Many politicians lose elections in spite of putting all the money and muscle power at his disposal. Since politicians have a fear of losing the election so they have no other way but to work for people's welfare. Chances of winning in an election also work as motivational factor for a politician. Bay and large, elections are fair in India and political competition plays an important role in making it fair.
Electoral Constituency: For parliamentary elections, the country is divided into more than 543 electoral constituencies. A constituency is usually made on the basis of population of a particular geographical area. Similarly, assembly constituencies are made in different states for the elections to the state assemblies. Voters in a constituency elect their representative.
Reserved Constituency: The constitution makers were of the opinion that people from the oppressed sections of the society should be given some leverage so that they could enhance their political representation. They made the provision for reserved constituencies for members of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. As on 1st September 2012, there are 84 seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes and 47 seats reserved for the Scheduled Tribes. Only the candidate from SC or ST can contest from these seats. But voters from all communities shall vote for the candidates in such constituencies. Now-a-days, reservation for OBCs (Other Backward Classes) is also given for elections to the local government bodies, like panchayats and municipalities. The percentage of reserved seats is same as the percentage of these communities in the population of India.
Voter's List: A list of all eligible voters is prepared for each constituency a few months before the elections. Voter’s list is updated from time to time to include the new voters and delete those who may have left the area or may have died. Voter's list is also called electoral roll.
Election Photo Identity Card: Once the voter's list is finalized, all the voters are expected to come to get election photo identity card or voter ID card. The provision for voter ID card has been made to prevent surrogate voting and bogus voting. But it is not necessary to carry your voter ID card to the polling booth. You can also carry any other valid ID proof, like driving license, ration card or PAN card.
Nomination of Candidates: Once the election dates are announced, the candidates need to file their nomination. When a candidate is selected by a political party as a candidate, it is usually known as party ticket. While filing the nomination, the candidate has to provide certain details and some security deposit. Some of the details required from the candidate are as follows:
Election Campaign: The candidates and political party conduct election campaign to educate the voters about their future programmes and policies. Political parties hold rallies, road-shows, mohalla sabhas, etc. They also spend on hoardings, advertising, banners, posters and pamphlets. Political parties usually try to focus the voters' attention on some big issues, like poverty alleviation, corruption, employment generation, provision for electricity, water, food, etc.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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