Elections in India
Elections in India are considered to be the very backbone of the Indian democracy. Being a Parliamentary Republic, the citizens of India are trusted with the responsibility to choose the head of the country as well as of the state. There are both General and State elections that are held in the country based on the Federal structure of the Indian Republic. The elections in India often transcend from being a mere political activity to a high publicized and often sensationalized national event, with clear cultural ramifications. The entire nation seems to suddenly come to life at the onset of the elections, particularly the General Elections. Even the assembly elections, which determine the state government, are events of great significance. All state elections are closely observed throughout the nation. Often the results of the state elections are considered to be clear indications of the mood of the nation.
General Elections in India
The General elections was held for the first time in 1951. However, then the
House had a strength of 489 seats, with members chosen from the 26 states of
India. Presently, there a total of 545 members in the House, with two unelected
members as representatives of the Anglo-Indian community in India. A total of
543 members are chosen by the general elections.
The General election continues to be by far the most important political event in the country. They are held once in every five year, unless the Central government is dissolved beforehand. India follows a bicameral legislative structure. The members to the House of the People or the Lok Sabha are elected through the General elections. These members are chosen from the parliamentary constituencies. The number of parliamentary constituencies in a state depends upon the size and the population of the state. The executive along with the Council of Ministers is chosen from among the members of the winning party or the ruling coalition, as the case may be.
The State elections in India are structurally similar to the general elections in India. It chooses members for the state assembly. The number of seats in the assembly as well as the number of members in the Cabinet vary from state to state, depending on its size and population.
The Election Commission of India
The Election Commission is the apex body that conducts the elections in
India. Both the general and the assembly elections in India are held in
accordance with the clear rules laid down by the Election Commission of India.
The Election Commission or the EC comprises high-ranking government officials
and is formed under the guidelines of the Indian Constitution. The EC is a
highly powerful body and is granted with a great degree of autonomous powers to
successfully conduct the elections. Even the judiciary resists from intervening
while the electoral process is on. The work of the Election Commission typically
starts with the announcement of various important dates and deadlines related to
the election, including the dates for voter registration, the filing of
nominations, counting and results. Its activities continue throughout the
time-period, when the elections are conducted in the country. The fact that
elections across the country are held in phases and not at the same time extends
the period of its work. The responsibilities of the EC finally concludes with
the submission of the results of the elections.
An election in India is a daunting affair because of the expanse and the high population of the country. The logistical involvement is really overwhelming. The work begins with the formation of the electoral list. All Indian citizens above the age of 18 are eligible for polling rights. A great involvement of man power is needed for the preparation of the elections list, which involves not less than 670 million people. The Election Commission has undertaken a number of extremely effective steps in order to render the electoral list full-proof and comprehensive, including door-to-door registration and verification systems. Registration can be done till a week before the date of the filing of the nominations.
The next important part of the Election Commission's pre-election activities involves the preparation of the candidate's list. The candidates have to declare their age, properties and criminal records to run the elections. A convicted criminal cannot run as a candidate. However, criminals under trial can do so, although he has to vacate the office if he declared convicted in future.
The political parties are commonly brought together by the EC to lay down the lines for the common code of conduct that is expected to be followed by all the relevant and participating parties. The code of conduct was brought about primarily to cut down on the exorbitant amounts spent on the elections in the previous versions of the Indian elections. The amount spent are presently limited, as are the modes of campaigning. Handing out of gifts, bribery, as well as the use of loudspeakers and microphones after 10.00 pm are banned and are considered to be gross violation of the code of conduct. Any announcement of sops and benefits is also restricted after the election days are announced. The political parties are also barred from taking any step that may aggrandize communal or class-based tension among the various groups of people who inhabit the land. The campaigning stops 48 hours before the actual polling begins. Any breach of the code of conduct can be judged by the Election Commission, which has the power to act as a Civil Court during the Election time.
The Voting Process
The Voting Day is a declared holiday. The enthusiasm is noted at every sphere
of the Indian society who queue up from early in the morning in order to cast
their polls. The polling is typically conducted by government officials and are
held in government schools and colleges, as well as certain other government
owned venues. An indelible ink is applied on the finger of the voter once the
process is complete, this is done in order to avoid the risk of bogus voting.
Presently, the Electronic Voting Machines or EVMs have replaced the traditional
ballot boxes in most areas. This was done to counter the great degree of booth
capturing and rigging that became a common feature of the elections in certain
parts of the country.
Soon after the voting process is over, the EVMs are conducted under strict security to highly guarded centers where they are kept till the counting begins. The results of the elections usually keep coming within hours of the final phase of voting is complete. There are provisions of bye-elections in booths and constituencies where some kind of dispute arises related to the voting process. The candidate with the maximum number of votes in a single constituency is declared to be the winner.
The announcement of the results is extremely well-publicized event. The media gets into the scene right from the polling day through conducting the exit polls. Regular bulletins keep the states and the entire country tuned in to the results of the elections. Excitement runs high as the final phase of the counting are entered. Usually, the picture becomes clear by the end of the day.
After the final results are submitted, the legislative head invites the winning party to form the government. In the case of the Center, it is the President; whereas in the states, it is the Governor, who performs this duty. The party, or the coalition, then has to ensure its majority through a vote of confidence. It needs a simple majority of at least 50% of the House to form the government.