- Electoral Politics Notes
- What is an Election?
- Why do we need elections?
- What makes an election democratic?(a simple list of the minimum conditions of a democratic election)
- Is it good to have political competition? (Merits and Demerits of electoral or political competition)
- How elections are held in India
- Reserved Constituencies and need for Reserved Constituencies
- Voters’ list
- Nomination of candidates
- Legal declaration introduced by the Supreme Court for filing Nomination papers.
- Election Campaign
- Rules for election campaign for fair and equal chance to compete
- Model Code of Conduct for election campaigns
Electoral Politics Notes
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 an election.
Why do we need elections?
- Elections take place regularly in all democracies. A rule of the people is not possible in any large country and it is not possible for everyone to have the time and knowledge to take decisions on all matters.Therefore in most democracies, people rule through their representatives.
- Therefore, elections are considered essential in our times for any representative democracy.In an election the voters make many choices:
- They can choose representatives who will make laws for them.
- They can choose leaders who will form the government and take major decisions.
- They can choose the party whose policies will guide the government and law making.
What makes an election democratic?(a simple list of the minimum conditions of a democratic election)
- First, everyone should be able to choose. This means that everyone should have one vote and every vote should have equal value.
- 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.
- Third, the choice should be offered at regular intervals. Elections must be held regularly after every few years.
- Fourth, the candidate preferred by the people should get elected.
- Fifth, elections should be conducted in a free and fair manner where people can choose as they really wish.
- It creates a sense of disunity and‘factionalism’ in every locality.
- Different political parties and leaders often level allegations against one another.
- Parties and candidates often use dirty tricks to win elections.
- Some good people who may wish to serve the country do not enter this competition. They do not like the idea of being dragged into the unhealthy competition.
- 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.
- 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.
- So if a political party is motivated only by a desire to be in power, even then it will be forced to serve the people.
- Political competition may cause divisions and some ugliness, but it finally helps to force political parties and leaders to serve the people.
How elections are held in India
Elections are held in all constituencies at the same time, either on the same day or within a few days. This is called a general election.
Sometimes election is held only for one constituency or two to fill the vacancy caused by death or resignation of a member. This is called a by-election.
The country is divided into different areas 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 constituencies are reserved for people who belong to the Scheduled Castes and
Scheduled Tribes.In a reserved constituency only someone who belongs to the Scheduled
Castes or Scheduled Tribes can stand for election.
Our Constitution entitles every citizento to 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 list of those who are eligible to vote is prepared much before the election and given to everyone. This list is officially called Electoral Roll and is commonly known as the Voters’List.
In our country, all the citizens aged18 years and above can vote in an election. Every citizen has the right to vote, regardless of his or her caste, religion or gender.
Some criminals and persons with an unsound mind can be denied the right to vote, but only in rare situations.
In the last few years, a new system of Election Photo Identity Card[EPIC] has been introduced. The government has tried to give this card to every person on the voter’s list.
Nomination of candidates
Anyone who can be a voter can also become a candidate in elections. The only difference is that in order to be the candidate the minimum age is 25years, while it is only 18 years for being a voter.
Every person who wishes to contest an election has to fill a nomination form’ and give some money as ‘security deposit’.
Legal declaration introduced by the Supreme Court for filing Nomination papers.
- Every candidate has to make a legaldeclaration, giving full details of Serious criminal cases pendingagainst the candidate;
- 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
- 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?
- Educational qualifications are not relevant to all kinds of jobs. The relevant qualification for being an MLA or an MP is the ability to understand people’s concerns, problems and to represent their interests.
- Even if education was relevant, it should beleave to the people to decide how much importance they give to educational qualifications.
- 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.
- The Congress party led by Indira Gandhi gave the slogan ofGaribiHatao(Remove poverty) in the Lok Sabha elections of 1971.
- Save Democracy was the slogan given by Janata Party in the next Lok Sabha election held in 1977.The party promised to undo the excesses committed during an emergency and restore civil liberties.
- The Left Front used the slogan of land to the Tiller in the WestBengal Assembly elections held in1977.
- Protect the Self-Respect of the Telugus’ was the slogan used by. T. Rama Rao, the leader of the Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh Assembly elections in1983.
Rules for election campaign for fair and equal chance to compete
Model Code of Conduct for election campaigns
- According to our election law, no party or candidate can bribe or threaten voters.
- According to our election law, no party or candidate can appeal to them in the name of caste or religion.
- According to our election law, noparty or candidate canuse government resources forelection campaign; and
- 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.
- According to this no party or candidate can use any place of worship for election propaganda.
- According to our election law, no party or candidate use government vehicles, aircraft, and officials for elections; and
- 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
The final stage of an election is the day when the voters cast or ‘poll’their vote. That day is usually called the election day. Every person whose name is on the voters’ list can go toa nearby ‘polling booth’, and cast vote.
Nowadays electronic voting machines (EVM) are used to record votes. The machine shows the names of the candidates and 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 and once they are appointed, they are not answerable to the President or the government.
Powers and functions of the Election Commission of India.
- EC takes decisions on every aspect of conduct and control of elections from the announcement of elections to the declaration of results.
- It implements the Code of Conduct and punishes any candidate or party that violates it.
- 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.
- When on election duty, government officers work under the control of the EC and not the government.
Popular participation of people in Election
- People’s participation in the election is usually measured by voter turnout figures. Turnout indicates the percent of eligible voters who actually cast their vote. InIndia the turnout has eitherremained stable or actually goneup.
- In India, the poor, illiterate and underprivileged people vote in larger proportion as compared to the rich and privileged sections.
- 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 favorable to them.
- The interest of voters in election-related activities has been increasing over the years. During the 2004 elections, more than one-third voters took part in campaign-related activities. Morethan half of the people are being close to one or the other political party.
Acceptance of electionoutcome by the candidates and parties
- 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.
- In India, about half of the sitting MPs or MLAs lose elections.
- Candidates who are known to have spent a lot of money on ‘buyingvotes’ and those with known criminal connections often lose elections.
- Barring very few disputed elections, the electoral outcomes are usually accepted as ‘people’verdict’ by the defeated party.
Challenges to free and fair elections in India
- 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.
- In some parts of the country, candidates with criminal connection have been able to push others out of the electoral race and to secure a ticket’ from major parties.
- Some families tend to dominate political parties; tickets are distributed to relatives from these families.
- Very often elections offer little choice to ordinary citizens, for both the major parties are quite similar to each other both policies and practice.
- Smaller parties and independent candidates suffer a huge disadvantage compared to bigger parties.
Supporters or hired musclemen of party or a candidate gain physical control of a polling booth and cast false votes by threatening everyone or by preventing genuine voters from reaching the 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 for the voters in elections is between the incumbent party or candidate and those who oppose them.
Level playing field:
A condition in which all parties and candidates contesting in an election have equal opportunities to appeal for votes and to carry out election campaign.
Fraud and malpractice indulged by a party or candidate to increase votes. It includes stuffing ballot boxes by a few persons using the votes of others; recording multiple votes by the same person, and bribing or coercing polling officers to favor a candidate.