Elections in India

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For the most recent general election, see Indian general election, 2014.

India has an asymmetric federal government, with elected officials at the federal, state and local levels. At the national level, the head of government, prime minister, is elected by members of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the parliament of India.[1] All members of the Lok Sabha, except two who can be nominated by the President of India, are directly elected through general elections which take place every five years, in normal circumstances, by universal adult suffrage.[2] Members of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament, are elected by elected members of the legislative assemblies of the states and the Electoral college for the Union Territories of India.[3]

In year 2009, the general election involved an electorate of 714 million people[4] (larger than both EU and US elections combined).[5][6] In year 2014, the Electoral Strength of India increased to 814.5 Million.[7] Declared expenditure has trebled since 1989 to almost $300 million, using more than one million electronic voting machines.[8]

The size of the huge electorate mandates that elections be conducted in a number of phases (there were four phases in 2004 general election and five phases in the 2009 general election). It involves a number of step-by-step processes from announcement of election dates by the Election Commission of India, which brings into force the 'model code of conduct' for the political parties, to the announcement of results and submission of the list of successful candidates to the executive head of the state or the centre. The submission of results marks the end of the election process, thereby paving the way for the formation of the new government.

Indian electoral system[edit]

The Parliament of India comprises the head of state and the two houses which are the legislature.

The president of India is elected for a five-year term by an electoral college consisting of members of federal and state legislatures.

The House of the People (Lok Sabha) represents citizens of India (as envisaged by the Constitution of India, currently the members of Lok Sabha are 545, out of which 543 are elected for five-year term and two members represent the Anglo-Indian community). The 545 members are elected under the plurality ('first past the post') electoral system.[9] The Council of States (Rajya Sabha) has 245 members, 233 members elected for a six-year term, with one-third retiring every two years. The members are indirectly elected, this being achieved by the votes of legislators in the state and union (federal) territories. The elected members are chosen under the system of proportional representation by means of the Single Transferable Vote. The twelve nominated members are usually an eclectic mix of eminent artists (including actors), scientists, jurists, sportspersons, businessmen and journalists and common people.[3]

History of elections in India[edit]

Lok Sabha is composed of representatives of the people chosen by direct election on the basis of the adult suffrage. The maximum strength of the House envisaged by the Constitution is 552, which is made up by election of up to 500 members to represent the States, up to 20 members to represent the Union Territories and not more than two members of the Anglo-Indian Community to be nominated by the President, if, in his/ her opinion, that community is not adequately represented in the lower house,Lok Sabha.

In 1952 Lok Sabha Elections there were 1874 candidates, which rose to 13952 candidates in 1996. However in 2009 Lok Sabha Elections only 8070 candidates contested.[10]

History of Indian political parties[edit]

The dominance of the Indian National Congress was broken for the first time in 1977, with the defeat of the party led by Indira Gandhi, by an unlikely coalition of all the major other parties, which protested against the imposition of a controversial emergency from 1975–1977. A similar coalition, led by VP Singh was swept to power in 1989 in the wake of major allegations of corruption against the incumbent Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi. It, too, lost its steam in 1990.

In 1992, the heretofore one-party-dominant politics in India gave way to a coalition system wherein no single party can expect to achieve a majority in the Parliament to form a government, but rather has to depend on a process of coalition building with other parties to form a block and claim a majority to be invited to form the government. This has been a consequence of strong regional parties which ride on the back of regional aspirations.

While parties like the TDP and the DMK had traditionally been strong regional contenders, the 1990s saw the emergence of other regional players such as the Lok Dal, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Janata Dal. These parties are traditionally based on regional aspirations, e.g. Telangana Rashtra Samithi are strongly influenced by caste considerations, e.g. Bahujan Samaj Party which claims to represent the Dalits.

Presently, the National Democratic Alliance led by the Bharatiya Janata Party is in power in parliament, after the recent polls of 2014 in which the Bharatiya Janata Party achieved the simple majority on its own by securing 282 seats and their alliance NDA has secured 335 seats. Narendra Modi, the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate, is now serving his first term as the Prime Minister of India.

Historical share of seats and votes[edit]

Historical share of seats and votes of major political parties ranked by the number of seats won.[11]

First Second Third
Year Election Total seats Party Seats  % votes Party Seats  % votes Party Seats  % votes
1951-52 [12] [13] [14] 1st Lok Sabha 489 INC 364 44.99% CPI 16 3.29% SP 12 10.59%
1957 [15] 2nd Lok Sabha 494 INC 371 47.78% CPI 27 8.92% PSP 19 10.41%
1962 3rd Lok Sabha 494 INC 361 44.72% CPI 29 9.94% SWA 18 7.89%
1967 4th Lok Sabha 520 INC 283 40.78% SWA 44 8.67% BJS 35 9.31%
1971 5th Lok Sabha 518 INC 352 43.68% CPM 25 5.12% CPI 23 4.73%
1977 6th Lok Sabha 542 BLD 295 41.32% INC 154 34.52% CPM 22 4.29%
1980 7th Lok Sabha 529 ( 542* ) INC(I) 351 42.69% JNP(S) 41 9.39% CPM 37 6.24%
1984 8th Lok Sabha 541 INC 404 49.01% TDP 30 4.31% CPM 22 5.87%
1989 9th Lok Sabha 529 INC 197 39.53% JD 143 17.79% BJP 85 11.36%
1991 10th Lok Sabha 521 INC 232 36.26% BJP 120 20.11% JD 59 11.84%
1996 11th Lok Sabha 543 BJP 161 20.29% INC 140 28.80% JD 46 23.45%
1998 12th Lok Sabha 543 BJP 182 25.59% INC 141 25.82% CPM 32 5.16%
1999 13th Lok Sabha 543 BJP 182 23.75% INC 114 28.30% CPM 33 5.40%
2004 14th Lok Sabha 543 INC 145 26.53% BJP 138 22.16% CPM 43 5.66%
2009 15th Lok Sabha 543 INC 206 28.55% BJP 116 18.80% SP 23 3.23%
2014 16th Lok Sabha 543 BJP 282 31.34% INC 44 19.52% ADMK 37 3.31%

* : 12 seats in Assam and 1 in Meghalaya did not vote. [16]

Abbrevations used[edit]

Electoral process in India[edit]

Electoral Process in India takes at least a month for state assembly elections with the duration increasing further for the General Elections. Publishing of electoral rolls is a key process that happens before the elections and is vital for the conduct of elections in India. The Indian Constitution sets the eligibility of an individual for voting. Any person who is a citizen of India and above 18 years of age is eligible to enroll as a voter in the electoral rolls. It is the responsibility of the eligible voters to enroll their names. Normally, voter registrations are allowed latest one week prior to the last date for nomination of candidates.

Government expenditure on elections[edit]

The cost per voter in the 2014 general elections was Rs 17, a twentyfold increase over the first election, held in 1952. The total expenditure for the 2014 general election was Rs 3600 crores; the 1952 election cost Rs 104.5 million total.[17]

Voter verifiable paper audit trail system (VVPAT)[edit]

On 14 August 2013 the Government of India amended the elections rules to permit the use the Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) system. The first election to implement the new system was a by-election held in the 51 Noksen Assembly Constituency of Nagaland.[18] Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) system is introduced in 8 of 543 parliamentary constituencies as a pilot project in Indian general election, 2014.[19][20][21][22] VVPAT is implemented in Lucknow, Gandhinagar, Bangalore South, Chennai Central, Jadavpur, Raipur, Patna Sahib and Mizoram constituencies.[23][24][25][26][27][28] Generated slip tells voter to which party or candidate vote has been given and also includes name of voter, constituency and polling booth.[29][30][31][32][33]

Before elections[edit]

At first before the elections the dates of nomination, polling and counting takes place. The model code of conduct comes in force from the day the dates are announced. No party is allowed to use the government resources for campaigning. The code of conduct stipulates that campaigning be stopped 48 hours prior to end of polling. No party is allowed to bribe the candidates before elections. The government cannot start a project during the election period.

Voting day[edit]

Government schools and colleges are chosen as polling stations. The Collector of each district is in charge of polling. Government employees are employed to many of the polling stations. Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are being increasingly used instead of ballot boxes to prevent election fraud via booth capturing, which is heavily prevalent in certain parts of India. An indelible ink is applied usually on the left index finger of the voter as an indicator that the voter has cast his vote. This practice has been followed since the 1962 general elections to prevent a bad vote.

"None of the above" voting option (negative vote)[edit]

"None of the above" is a proposed voting option in India that would allow voters who support none of the candidates available to them to register an official vote of "none of the above", which is not currently allowed under India election regulation.[34] The Election Commission of India told the Supreme Court in 2009 that it wished to offer the voter a None of the above button on voting machines; the government, however, has generally opposed this option.[35]

On 27 September 2013, Supreme Court of India pronounced a judgement that citizen's of India have Right to Negative Vote by exercising None of the above (NOTA) option in EVMs and ballot papers. The judgment was passed on a PIL filed by the People's Union for Civil Liberties, an NGO in 2009.[36][37][38] The Election Commission has implemented this option of "none of the above" voting option in EVM machines w.e.f.five states polls starting from November 2013. However it does not mean that if 'NOTA' gets highest votes then election will be conducted again, rather even in that case, the candidate with the highest votes will be treated as elected candidate.[39]

Post elections[edit]

After the election day, the EVMs are stored in a strong room under heavy security. After the different phases of the elections are complete, a day is set to count the votes. The votes are tallied typically, the verdict is known within hours. The candidate who has mustered the most votes is declared the winner of the constituency.

The party or coalition that has won the most seats is invited by the President to form the new government. The coalition or party must prove its majority in the floor of the house (Lok Sabha) in a vote of confidence by obtaining a simple majority (minimum 50%) of the votes in the house.

Voter registration[edit]

Voter registration is the requirement in some democracies for citizens and residents to check in with some central registry specifically for the purpose of being allowed to vote in elections. An effort to get people to register is known as a voter registration drive. In democracies where resident registration is in effect, voter registration is generally not required. For a few cities in India, the voter registration forms can be generated online and submitted to the nearest electoral office.[40] But in most of the states people have to do the registration in person at the nearest office of the state election commissioner.

Absentee voting[edit]

An absentee ballot is a vote cast by someone who is unable or unwilling to attend the official polling station or to which the voter is normally allocated. Numerous methods have been devised to facilitate this. Increasing the ease of access to absentee ballots is seen by many as one way to improve voter turnout, though some countries require that a valid reason, such as infirmity or travel, be given before a voter can participate in an absentee ballot.Currently, India does not have an absentee ballot system for all citizens except in few exceptions.[41][42][43] Section 19 of The Representation of the People Act (RPA)-1950[44] allows a person to register to vote if he or she is above 18 years of age and is an 'ordinary resident' of the residing constituency i.e. living at the current address for 6 months or longer. Section 20 of the above Act disqualifies a non-resident Indian (NRI) from getting his/her name registered in the electoral rolls. Consequently, it also prevents a NRI from casting his/her vote in elections to the Parliament and to the State Legislatures.

In August 2010, Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill-2010 which allows voting rights to NRI's was passed in both Lok Sabha with subsequent gazette notifications on 24 November 2010.[45] With this NRI's will now be able to vote in Indian elections but have to be physically present at the time of voting. Several civic society organizations have urged the government to amend the RPA act to allow NRI's and people on the move to cast their vote through absentee ballot system.[46][47] People for Lok Satta has been actively pushing combination of internet and postal ballot as a viable means for NRI voting.[48]

Cash for votes in India[edit]

In December 2010 during the United States diplomatic cables le WikiLeaks leaked a cable stating that political parties regularly bribe voters, in the form of cash, goods, or services, before elections in India. It may range from financing the construction of a community well to putting into an envelope and delivering it inside the morning newspaper. Politicians and their operatives have admitted to violating election rules to influence voters. The money used to pay for the bribes come from the money raised through fundraising. The practice is thought to have swung many elections where the race was close.Former Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh, L K Advani's ex-aide Sudheendra Kulkarni and two BJP MPs along with two others on Friday got huge relief with a Delhi court discharging them in the 2008 cash-for-vote case.Besides Amar Singh and Kulkarni, Special Judge Narottam Kaushal also discharged BJP MPs Ashok Argal and Faggan Singh Kulaste, former BJP MP Mahabir Singh Bhagora and BJP activist Sohail Hindustani of the charges of criminal conspiracy under IPC and the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The Hindu news paper reported that "Karti Chidambaram of the Congress, M. Patturajan, confidant of Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers M.K. Alagiri and former Mayor of Madurai, and Member of Parliament Assaduddin Owaisi of the Majlis-e-Ittenhadul Muslimeen spoke about how they, their principals, and their parties made payments to voters during the election campaign".[49][50]

See also[edit]



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