- 1 Terminology
- 2 What Makes an Election Democratic?
- 3 Elections
- 4 Democracy without Elections
- 5 What Makes an Election Democratic
- 6 Demerits of an Electoral Competition
- 7 Merits of Electoral Competition
- 8 What is Our System of Elections?
- 9 Electoral Constituencies
- 10 Reserved Constituencies
- 11 Voters’ List
- 12 Who cannot Cast Vote?
- 13 Election Photo Identify Card (EPIC)
- 14 Nomination of Candidates
- 15 Election Campaign
- 16 Use of Slogans in Different Elections
- 17 Protect the Self-Respect of the Telugus
- 18 Election Law
- 19 Polling and Counting of Votes
- 20 Unfair Means for Winning Elections
- 21 Independent Election Commission
- 22 Powers of the Election Commission
- 23 Popular Participation
- 24 Acceptance of Election Outcome
- 25 Challenges to Free and Fair Elections
|General elections – Elections held after the term of 5 years of Lok Sabha are called general elections.
Election – The process by which people choose their representatives at regular intervals is known as election.
Voter’s list – List of those who are eligible to vote, that is prepared before the election.
Electoral roll – Voter’s list is also known as Electoral Roll.
Constituency – A particular area from where voters elect a representative to the Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha.
Electorate – It refers to the entire body of people who are qualified to vote in the elections for the legislatures or local bodies.
Franchise – It refers to the right of people to vote and elect their representatives to make laws.
Mid Term Election – Sometimes, the Lok Sabha and the Vidhan Sabha are dissolved and an election is held before the expiry of their full term of five years. Such an election is called a mid-term election.
By-election – An election may need to be held for a single constituency, due to the untimely death or resignation of an elected member. The election carried out to fill this vacancy is known as a by-election.
Universal adult franchise – In our country, all the citizens who are 18 years and above can vote in an election.
Campaigning – It refers to a process by which a candidate tries to persuade the voter to vote for him rather than for others.
Election photo identity Card – The voters are required to carry this card when they go out to vote.
Election manifesto – A document published by every political party before elections containing the policies and programmes of that party.
Electronic voting machine (EVM) – A device used to record votes on an election day.
Ballot paper – A sheet on which the names of the candidates along with the party name and symbols are listed. Now a days, EVM is used in most of the elections.
Election day – The day when the voters cast or poll their vote is usually called the election day.
Code of conduct – A set of norms and guidelines to be followed by political parties and contesting candidates during
Incumbent – The current holder of a political office.
Impersonation – An electoral malpractice in which a person assumes the identity of another for unlawful purposes is called impersonation.
Election Commission – A parliamentary body constituted
|The process by which people choose their representatives at regular intervals is known as election. The process of election in democratic countries differs from that of nondemocratic countries. In a democratic election, the preferred contestant is elected. The elections are carried out in a free and fair manner.
In a democratic country, everyone has an equal right to vote, different parties and candidates contest freely and the voters have the right to choose their representative at regular intervals. Democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people.
What Makes an Election Democratic?
Elections must be held at regular intervals.
Candidate preferred by the people should be elected.
Elections should be held in a fair and free atmosphere.
Everyone should be able to choose his/her representative, i.e., everyone should have one vote and every vote should have equal value. This is termed as universal adult franchise.
There should be parties and candidates to choose from, freedom to contest and a wide choice for people.
Political Competition : Demerits
Long-term policies cannot be formulated.
Good people do not enter politics.
Creates a sense of disunity and ‘party politics’.
Parties level allegations against each other by using dirty tricks to win elections.
Merits : Elections are good because they force the ruling party to perform. The government is aware that it will be voted out of power if it does not perform as the people expected.
It forces parties and leaders to serve the people, so competition is good.
(i) Elections are an integral part of any democracy, elections are held regularly and they are a sign of a healthy democracy.
Democracy without Elections
(a) The rule of the people is possible without any elections , if all the people can sit together everyday and takes all the decisions.
(b) This is not possible in a large community. Nor is it possible for everyone to have the time and knowledge to take decisions on all matters. Therefore in all democracies people rule through their representatives.
(c) This is why we need elections.
(iii) Elections provide the mechanism by which people choose their representatives at regular intervals and change them if they wish to do so. Therefore elections are considered essential in our times for any representative democracy.
(iv) In an election the voters make many choices.
(a) They can choose who will make laws for them.
(b) They can choose who will form the government and take major decisions.
(c) They can choose the party whose policies will guide the government and law making.
What Makes an Election Democratic
All countries hold elections. The following conditions make election democratic.
(i) First everyone should be able to choose, This means the everyone should have one vote and every vote should have equal value.
(ii) Second there should be something to choose from. Parties and candidates should be free to contest elections and should offer some real choice to the voters.
(iii) Third the choice should be offered at regular intervals.Elections must be held regularly after every few years.
(iv) Fourth the candidates preferred by the people should get elected.
(v) Fifth the elections should be conducted in a free and fair manner where people can choose as they really wish.
Is It Good to Have Political Competition?
Elections are all about political competition. Without competition elections would become meaningless.
Demerits of an Electoral Competition
(i) It creates a sense of disunity and factionalism in every locality.
(ii) Different political parties and leaders often level allegations against one-another.
(iii) Parties and candidates often use dirty tricks to win elections.
(iv) The pressure to win electoral fights does not allow sensible long-term policies to be formulated.
(v) Some good people who may wish to serve the country do not enter this arena. They do not like idea of being dragged into healthy competition.
Merits of Electoral Competition
(i) Regular electoral competition provides incentives to political parties and leaders. They know that if they raise issues that people want to be raised their popularity and chances of victory will increase in the next elections. But if they fail to satisfy the voters with their work they will not be able to win again.
(ii) If a political party is motivated only by the desire to be in power, even then it will be forced to serve the people.
(iii) Elections give the people the chance to change their representatives if they are unsatisfied with them.
(iv) The fear of losing in elections keeps the representatives active and inclined to serve the people.
What is Our System of Elections?
(i) Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha (Assembly) elections are held regularly after every five years.
(ii) After every five years, the term of the elected representatives comes to an end. The Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha stands dissolved.
(iii) Elections are held in all constituencies at the same time either on the same day or within few days. This is called general election.
(iv) Sometimes election is held only for one constituency to fill the vacancy caused by death or resignation of a member.This is called a by-election.
(i) In India, we follow an area based system of representation.
(ii) The country is divided into different areas for purposes of elections. These areas are called electoral constituencies.
(iii) The voters who live in an area elect one representative.
(iv) For Lok Sabha Elections the country is divided into 543 constituencies.
(v) The representative elected from each constituency is called a Member of Parliament or an MP.
(vi) One of the features of a democratic election is that every vote should have equal value.
(vii) Each state is divided into a specific number of assembly constituencies.
(viii) In this case, the elected representative is called the Member of Legislative Assembly or an MLA.
(ix) Each Parliamentary Constituency has within it several assembly constituencies.
(x) The same principle applies for Panchayat and Municipal elections.
(xi) Each village or town is divided into several ‘wards’ that are like constituencies. Each ward elects one member of the village or the urban local body.
(vi) Sometimes these constituencies are counted as ‘seats’, for each constituency represent as one seat in the assembly.When we say Lok Dal won 60 seats in Haryana, it means that candidates of Lok Dal won in 60 Assembly Constituencies in the state and thus Lok Dal had 60 MLA in the State Assembly.
(1) The Constitution makers were worried that in an open electoral competition certain weaker sections may not stand a good chance to get elected to the Lok Sabha and the State Legislative Assemblies. They may not have the required resources, education and contacts to contest and win elections against others. Those who are influential and resourceful may prevent them from winning elections.
(2) For giving the weaker sections of society a fair chance of winning in the elections the government thought of a special system of reserved constituencies.
(3) Some constituencies are reserved for people who belong to the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST). In a SC constituency only someone who belongs to the Scheduled Caste can stand for election. Same is the case for a ST constituency.
(4) Currently in the Lok Sabha 79 seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes and 41 for the Scheduled Tribes.
(5) This number is in proportion to their share in the total population.
(6) Thus, the reserved seats for SCs and STs do not take away the legitimate share of any other social group.
(7) This system of reservation was extended later to other weaker sections at the district and local level.
(8) In many states, seats in rural (panchayat) and urban (municipalities and corporations) local bodies are now reserved for Other Backward Classes (OBCS) as well.
(9) One-third of the seats are reserved in rural and urban local bodies for women candidates.
(1) In a democratic election, the list of those who are eligible to vote is prepared much before the election. This list is officially called the Electoral Roll and is commonly known as Voters List.
(2) Universal adult franchise means that everyone should have one vote and each vote should have equal value.
(3) In our country, all the citizens aged 18 years and above can vote in an election without discrimination on the basis of caste, religion or gender.
(4) As new persons attain voting age, names are added to the voters’ list.
(5) Names of those who move out of a place or those who are dead are deleted.
(6) A complete revision of the list is done in every five years.This is done to ensure that it remains up-to-date.
Who cannot Cast Vote?
(i) Some criminals and persons with unsound mind can be denied the right to vote, but only in rare situations.
(ii) Anybody who is not an Indian citizen also is not permitted to vote.
Election Photo Identify Card (EPIC)
(i) In the last few years a new system of election photo identity card has been introduced.
(ii) The voters are required to carry this card when they go out to vote so that no one can vote for someone else.
(iii) In case a person does not have a voters card he can show many other proofs of identity like ration card or driving licence.
Nomination of Candidates
(i) Anyone who can be a voter can also become a candidate in elections, the only difference is that to be a voter the minimum age is 18 years while to be a candidate the minimum age is 25 years.
(ii) Political parties nominate their candidates who get the party symbol and support.
(iii) Party’s nomination is often called party ‘ticket’.
(iv) Every person who wishes to contest an election has to fill a ‘nomination form’ and give some money as ‘security deposit.
(v) Recently a new system of declaration has been introduced on the direction of the Supreme Court. Every candidate has to make a legal declaration giving full details.
(vi) Serious criminal cases pending against the candidate.
(vii) Details of the assets and liabilities of the candidate and his or her family.
(viii) Education qualifications of the candidate.
(ix) This information has to be made public.
(X) This provides an opportunity to the voters to make their decision on the basis of the information provided by the candidates.
(i) In our country, such campaigns take place for a two-weak period between the announcement of the final list of the candidates and the date of polling.
(ii) During this period the candidates contact their voters political leaders address election meetings and political parties mobilise their supporters.
(iii) This is also the period when newspaper and television news are full of election related stories and debates.
(iv) The election campaign is not limited to the two-week period only. Political parties start preparing for elections months before they actually take place.
Use of Slogans in Different Elections
(i) In election campaigns, political parties try to focus public attention on some big issues and get them to vote for their party on that basis.
To attract the people, the different parties have given different slogans in various elections e.g.,
(a) Garibi Hatao (Remove Poverty) was the slogan given by the Congress Party led by Indira Gandhi in the Lok Sabha elections of 1971. The Congress Party promised to reorient all the policies of the government to remove poverty from our country.
(b) Save Democracy was the slogan given by Janata Party in the Lok Sabha election held in 1977. The party promised to undo the excesses committed during emergency and restore civil liberties.
(ii) The left front used the slogan of ‘Land to the Tiller’ in the West Bengal Assembly elections held in 1977.
Protect the Self-Respect of the Telugus
(i) This was the slogan used by NT Rama Rao, the leader of the Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh Assembly election in 1983.
(ii) In a democracy, it is best to leave to political parties and candidates free to conduct their election campaigns the way they want to.
(iii) But sometimes it becomes necessary to regulate campaigns to ensure that every political party and candidate gets a fair and equal chance to compete.
(i) According to our election law no party or candidate can
(a) Bribe or threaten voters
(b) Appeal to them in the name of caste or religion.
(c) Use government resources for election campaign.
(d) Spend more than 25 lakh in a constituency for a Lok Sabha election or ? 10 lakh in a constituency in an Assembly election.
(e) If they do so their election can be rejected by the court even after they have been declared elected.
(ii) In addition to the laws, all the political parties in our country have agreed to a Model Code of Conduct for election campaigns. According to this no party or candidate can
(a) Use any place of worship for election propaganda.
(b) Use government vehicles, aircrafts and officials for elections.
(iii) Once elections are announced, Ministers shall not lay foundation stones of any projects, take any big policy decisions or make any promises of providing public facilities.
Polling and Counting of Votes
(i) On the day when the voters cast or ‘poll’ their vote is called election day.
(ii) Every person whose name is on the voters list can go to a nearby ‘polling booth’ and cast his/her vote.
(iii) Once the voter goes inside the booth, the election officials identify her/him, put a mark on the voters’ finger and allow her/him to cast her/his vote.
(iv) An agent of each candidate is allowed to sit inside the polling booth and ensure that the voting takes place in a fair way.
(v) Earlier voting was done by putting a stamp on the ballot paper. A ballot paper is a sheet of paper on which the names of the contesting candidates along with the party name and symbols are listed.
(vi) Now-a-days Electronic Voting Machines (EVMS) are used to record votes.
(vii) The EVM shows the names of the candidates and the party symbols. Independent candidates too have their own symbols, allotted by the election officials.
(viii) All the voter has to do is to press the button against the name of the candidate whom they want to vote for.
(ix) Once the polling is over the EVMS are sealed and taken to a secure place. A few days later, on a fixed date all the EVMS from a constituency are opened and the votes secured by each candidate are counted.
(x) The agents of the candidate are present there at the time of counting to ensure that the counting is done properly.
(xi) The candidate who secures the highest number of votes from a constituency is declared elected.
(xii) Within a few hours of counting, all the results are declared and it becomes clear that who will form the next government.
Unfair Means for Winning Elections
(i) Newspapers and television often report about unfair election practices followed by candidates to win elections such as
(ii) Inclusion of false names and exclusion of genuine names in the voters’ list.
(iii) Misuse of government facilities and officials by the ruling party.
(iv) Excessive use of money by rich candidates and big parties.
(v) Intimidation of voters and rigging on the polling day.
(vi) But fortunately they are not on such a scale now so as to defeat the very purpose of elections.
Independent Election Commission
(i) One simple way of checking whether elections are fair or not is to look at who conducts the elections.
(ii) In our country, elections are conducted by an independent and very powerful Election Commission (EC). It enjoys the same kind of independence that the judiciary enjoys.
(iii) The Chief Election Commissioner is appointed by the President of India. But once appointed, the Chief Election Commissioner is not answerable to the President or the government. Even if the ruling party or the government does not like what the commission does, it is virtually impossible to remove the CEC.
Powers of the Election Commission
(i) EC takes decisions on every aspect of conduct and control of elections from the announcement of elections to the declaration of results.
(ii) It implements the code of conduct and punishes any candidate or party that violates it.
(ii) During the election period the EC can order the government to follow guidelines to prevent use and misuse of governmental power to enhance its chances to win elections, or to transfer some government officials.
(iv) When on election duty, government officers work under the control of EC and not the government.
(v) It is very common for the EC to reprimand the government and administration for their lapses.
(vi) EC can order a repoll if it feels that polling is not fair.
(vii) All this is possible because EC is independent and powerful.
(i) Another way to check quality of the election process is to see whether people participate in it with enthusiasm or not.
(ii) If the election process is not free and fair, people will not continue to participate in the elections.
(iii) People’s participation in election is usually measured by voter turnout figures. Turnout indicates the percent of eligible voters who actually cast their vote. In India, the turn out has either remained stable or actually gone up. Over the last fifty years the turnout in Europe and North America has declined.
(iv) In India, the poor, illiterate and underprivileged people vote in larger proportion as compared to the rich and privileged sections. This is in contrast to western democracies. e.g., in the United States of America, poor people, African Americans and Hispanics vote much less than the rich and the white people.
(v) Common people in India attach a lot of importance to elections. They feel that through elections they can bring pressure on political parties to adopt policies and programmes favourable to them.
(vi) They also feel that their vote matters in the way things are run in the country.
(vii) The interests of the voters in election related activities has been increasing over the years.
(viii) During the 2004 elections, more than one-third voters took part in a campaign related activities, More than half of the people identified themselves as being close to one or the
other political party. One out of every seven voters is a member of a political party.
Acceptance of Election Outcome
(1) One final test of the free and fairness of election has in the outcome itself.
(2) If elections are not free and fair the outcome always favours the powerful.
(3) In such a situation, the ruling parties do not lose elections.Usually, the losing party does not accept the outcome of a rigged elections.
(4) As far as India is concerned the election results are accepted by the different parties as we can see from the following facts
(a) The ruling parties routinely lose elections in India both at the national and state level.
(b) Infact in every two out of three elections held in the past 15 years, the ruling party lost.
(c) In the US an incumbent or ‘setting’ elected representative rarely loses an election. In India, about half of the sitting MPs or MLAS lose elections.
(d) Candidates who are known to have spent a lot of money on buying votes’ and those with criminal connections often lose elections.
(e) Barring very few disputed elections, the electoral outcomes are usually accepted as ‘people’s verdict’ by the defeated party.
Challenges to Free and Fair Elections
(i) Elections in India are basically free and fair.
(ii) But this may not be true for every constituency.
(iii) A few candidates may win purely on the basis of money power and muscle power and unfair means.
(iv) The overall verdict of a general election in India still reflects popular preference. This is what makes Indian elections democratic.
(v) The challenges to free and fair election are listed as follows
(a) Money Power Candidates and parties with a lot of money may not be sure of their victory but they do enjoy a big and unfair advantage over smaller parties and independents.
(b) Criminal Connection In some parts of the country candidates with criminal connections have been able to push others out of the electoral race and to secure a ticket’ from major parties.
(c) Family Dominance Some families tend to dominate political parties. Tickets are distributed to relatives from these families.
(d) No Proper Choice Very often elections offer little choice to ordinary citizens, for both the major parties are quite similar to each other both in policies and practice.
(e) Small Parties Smaller parties and independent candidates suffer a huge disadvantage compared to bigger parties in terms of manpower and organisational support.