What is an Election?
A mechanism by which people choose their representatives at regular intervals and change the representatives if they wish to do so. This mechanism is called election.
Why do we need elections?
1. Elections take place regularly in alldemocracies. A rule of thepeople is notpossible in any large country and it is not possible for everyone tohave the time and knowledge totake decisions on all matters.Therefore in most democraciespeople rule through theirrepresentatives.
2. Therefore, elections are consideredessential in our times for anyrepresentative democracy.In an election the voters makemany choices:
· They can choose representatives who will makelaws for them.
· They can choose leaders who will form thegovernment and take majordecisions.
· They can choose the party whosepolicies will guide the governmentand law making.
What makes an electiondemocratic?(a simple list of the minimumconditions of a democratic election)
1. First, everyone should be able tochoose. This means that everyoneshould have one vote and everyvote should have equal value.
2. Second, there should besomething to choose from. Partiesand candidates should be free tocontest elections and should offersome real choice to the voters.
3. Third, the choice should be offeredat regular intervals. Elections mustbe held regularly after every fewyears.
4. Fourth, the candidate preferred bythe people should get elected.
5. Fifth, elections should beconducted in a free and fairmanner where people can chooseas they really wish.
Is it good to have politicalcompetition?(Merits and Demerits of electoral or political competition)
1. Itcreates a sense of disunity and‘factionalism’ in every locality.
2. Different political parties andleaders often level allegations againstone another.
3. Parties and candidatesoften use dirty tricks to win elections.
4. Some good people whomay wish to serve the country do notenter this competition. They do not like theidea of being dragged into unhealthycompetition.
1. Our Constitution makers wereaware of these problems. Yet theyopted for free competition inelections as the way to select ourfuture leaders. They did so becausethis system works better in the longrun.
2. In a way it tries to improve the knowledge and characterof political leaders. The other andmore realistic way is to set up asystem where political leaders arerewarded for serving the people andpunished for not doing so.
3. So if a political party is motivatedonly by desire to be in power, eventhen it will be forced to serve the people.
4. Political competition maycause divisions and some ugliness,but it finally helps to force politicalparties and leaders to serve thepeople.
How elections areheld in India
Elections are held in allconstituencies at the same time,either on the same day or within afew days. This is called a generalelection.
Sometimes election is held only for one constituency or two to fill thevacancy caused by death orresignation of a member. This iscalled a by-election.
Thecountry is divided into differentareas based on population for the purpose of elections.These areas are called electoral constituencies. For LokSabha elections, the country
is divided into 543 constituencies.
Reserved Constituencies and need for Reserved Constituencies
Some constituenciesare reserved for people who belongto the Scheduled Castes and
Scheduled Tribes.In a reserved constituency only someonewho belongs to the Scheduled
Castes or Scheduled Tribes can stand for election.
Our Constitution entitles every citizento elect its representative and to beelected as a representative. TheConstitution makersworried that in an open electoralcompetition, weaker sectionsmay not stand a good chance to getelected.
The listof those who are eligible to vote isprepared much before the electionand given to everyone. This list isofficially called Electoral Roll andis commonly known as the Voters’List.
In our country, all the citizens aged18 years and above can vote in anelection. Every citizen has the rightto vote, regardless of his or her caste, religion or gender.
Some criminalsand persons with unsound mind canbe denied the right to vote, but onlyin rare situations.
In the last few years a new systemof Election Photo Identity Card[EPIC] has been introduced. Thegovernment has tried to give thiscard to every person on the voterslist.
Nomination of candidates
Anyonewho can be a voter can also becomea candidate in elections. Theonly difference is that in order to bea candidate the minimum age is 25years, while it is only 18 years forbeing a voter.
Every person who wishes tocontest an election has to fill a‘nomination form’ and give somemoney as ‘security deposit’.
Legal declaration introduced by the Supreme Court for filing Nomination papers.
1. Every candidate has to make a legaldeclaration, giving full details of Serious criminal cases pendingagainst the candidate;
2. Every candidate has to make a legal declaration, giving full details of Details of the assets and liabilitiesof the candidate and his or herfamily; and
3. Every candidate has to make a legal declaration, giving full details of Education qualifications of thecandidate.
Why is there no educational qualification for candidates to conduct elections?
1. Educational qualifications are not relevant toall kinds of jobs. The relevant qualification forbeing anMLA or an MP is the ability to understandpeople’s concerns, problems and to representtheir interests.
2. Even if education was relevant, it should beleft to the people to decide how much importance they give to educationalqualifications.
3. In our country putting an educationalqualification would go against the spirit ofdemocracy for yet another reason. It wouldmean depriving a majority of the country’scitizens the right to contest elections(with poor literacy rate)
In our country such campaignstake place for a two-week periodbetween the announcement of thefinal list of candidates and the dateof polling. During this period thecandidates contact their voters,political leaders address electionmeetings and political partiesmobilize their supporters.
some of thesuccessful slogans given by differentpolitical parties in various elections.
1. The Congress party led by IndiraGandhi gave the slogan of GaribiHatao(Remove poverty) in theLokSabha elections of 1971.
2. Save Democracy was the slogangiven by Janata Party in the nextLokSabha election held in 1977.The party promised to undo theexcesses committed duringEmergency and restore civil liberties.
3. The Left Front used the slogan ofLand to the Tiller in the WestBengal Assembly elections held in1977.
4. Protect the Self-Respect of theTelugus’ was the slogan used byN. T. Rama Rao, the leader of theTelugu Desam Party in AndhraPradesh Assembly elections in1983.
Rules for election campaign for fair and equal chance to compete
Model Code of Conduct for election campaigns
1. According to our election law, noparty or candidate can bribe or threaten voters.
2. According to our election law, noparty or candidate canappeal to them in the name of caste or religion.
3. According to our election law, noparty or candidate canuse government resources forelection campaign; and
4. According to our election law, noparty or candidate can spend more than Rs. 25 lakh in aconstituency for a LokSabha electionor Rs. 10 lakh in a constituency inan Assembly election.
5. According tothis no party or candidate can use any place of worship forelection propaganda.
6. According to our election law, noparty or candidate use government vehicles, aircraftsand officials for elections; and
7. Once elections are announced,Ministers shall not lay foundationstones of any projects, take any bigpolicy decisions or make anypromises of providing public facilities.
Polling and counting of votes
The final stage of an election is theday when the voters cast or ‘poll’their vote. That day is usually calledthe election day. Every person whosename is on the voters’ list can go toa nearby ‘polling booth’, and cast vote.
Nowadayselectronic voting machines (EVM) areused to record votes. The machineshows the names of the candidatesand the party symbols.
A few days later, on afixed date, all the EVMs from aconstituency are opened and thevotes secured by each candidate arecounted. Thecandidate who secures the highestnumber of votes from a constituencyis declared elected
WHAT MAKES ELECTIONS IN INDIADEMOCRATIC?
An independent and powerful commission appointed by the President of India to conduct free and fair election is called Election Commission. The commission has three members andonce they are appointed, they are notanswerable to the President or thegovernment.
Powers and functions of the Election Commissionof India.
1. EC takes decisions on every aspectof conduct and control of electionsfrom the announcement of electionsto the declaration of results.
2. It implements the Code of Conductand punishes any candidate orparty that violates it.
3. During the election period, the ECcan order the government to followsome guidelines, to prevent use andmisuse of governmental power toenhance its chances to winelections, or to transfer somegovernment officials.
4. When on election duty, governmentofficers work under the control ofthe EC and not the government.
Popular participation of people in Election
1. People’s participation in election isusually measured by voter turnoutfigures. Turnout indicates the percent of eligible voters who actuallycast their vote. InIndia the turnout has eitherremained stable or actually goneup.
2. In India the poor, illiterate andunderprivileged people vote inlarger proportion as compared tothe rich and privileged sections.
3. Common people in India attach alot of importance to elections. Theyfeel that through elections theycan bring pressure on politicalparties to adopt policies andprogrammes favourable to them.
4. The interest of voters in electionrelatedactivities has beenincreasing over the years. Duringthe 2004 elections, more than onethirdvoters took part in campaign-related activities. Morethan half of the people are being close to oneor the other political party.
Acceptance of electionoutcome by the candidates and parties
1. The ruling parties routinely loseelections in India both at thenational and state level. In fact inevery two out of the three electionsheld in the last fifteen years, theruling party lost.
2. In India about half ofthe sitting MPs or MLAs loseelections.
3. Candidates who are known to havespent a lot of money on ‘buyingvotes’ and those with knowncriminal connections often loseelections.
4. Barring very few disputedelections, the electoral outcomesare usually accepted as ‘people’sverdict’ by the defeated party.
Challenges to free and fairelections in India
1. Candidates and parties with a lotof money may not be sure of theirvictory but they do enjoy a big andunfair advantage over smallerparties and independents.
2. In some parts of the country,candidates with criminal connectionhave been able to push others outof the electoral race and to secure a‘ticket’ from major parties.
3. Some families tend to dominatepolitical parties; tickets aredistributed to relatives from thesefamilies.
4. Very often elections offer littlechoice to ordinary citizens, forboth the major parties are quitesimilar to each other both inpolicies and practice.
5. Smaller parties and independentcandidates suffer a hugedisadvantage compared to biggerparties.
Supporters or hired musclemen of party or a candidategain physical control of a polling booth and cast false votes bythreatening everyone or by preventing genuine voters from reachingthe polling booth.
Code of Conduct:
A set of norms and guidelines to be followed by political parties and contesting candidates during election time.
The current holder of a political office. Usually the choice forthe voters in elections is between the incumbent party or candidate andthose who oppose them.
Level playing field:
Condition in which all parties and candidatescontesting in an election have equal opportunities to appeal for votes andto carry out election campaign.