Reserved political positions in India
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In India, a certain number of political positions and university posts are held for specific groups of the population, including Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Backward Castes, Anglo-Indians and Women.
There are Reserved Constituencies and Tribes in both Parliamentary and Assembly Elections. General Candidates are not eligible to contest from these constituencies. All voters are to vote for one of the candidates (from Scheduled Castes or Tribes). In case of Municipal Elections, the constituencies are known as Wards. Thus, there may be as many Wards or Constituencies as the number of elected seats in the elected body.
An electorate is a group of voters, namely, all the officially qualified voters within a particular country or area or for a particular election.
A joint electorate is one where the entire voting population of a country or region is part of a single electorate, and the entire electorate votes for the candidates who contest elections.
In the case of separate electorates, the voting population of a country or region is divided into different electorates, based on certain factors such as religion, caste, gender, and occupation. Here, members of each electorate votes only to elect representatives for their electorate. Separate electorates are usually demanded by minorities who feel it would otherwise be difficult for them to get fair representation in government. separate electorate for Muslims means that Muslims will choose their separate leader by separate elections for Muslims.
Under the British Raj
In India’s pre-independence era, when the Muslims in India demanded fair representation in power-sharing with the British government along with the Hindus, the British government provided for a separate electorate system for the Muslims. As a result, of the total 250 seats of the Bengal Legislative Assembly, 117 seats were kept reserved for the Muslims. Accordingly, the general elections of 1937 were held on the basis of the extended separate electorates, where only the Muslims voted for the 117 seats, in Bengal.
Again, in the Round Table Conferences in 1930-32, the concept of separate electorates for the Untouchables (now called Dalits) was raised by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, as a way to ensure sufficient representation for the minority Dalits, in government. This provision was strongly opposed by Mahatma Gandhi on the grounds that the move would disintegrate Hindu society. If the Dalits were given a separate electorate, then certain constituencies would have been reserved for them, and only the Dalits would have been able to vote for the candidates contesting those seats, thus alienating the rest of the Hindus. Finally, a compromise was reached where there were certain constituencies reserved for the Dalits, where the Dalits could elect 4 candidates per constituency who would then be candidates for election by the joint electorate.
After the Independence
The Anglo-Indian community is the only Indian community that has its own representatives nominated to the Lok Sabha (Lower House) in India's Parliament. This right was secured from Nehru by Frank Anthony, the first and longtime president of the All India Anglo-Indian Association. The community is represented by two members. This is done because the community has no native state of its own. States like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Karnataka chhattisgarh and Kerala also have a nominated member each in their respective State Legislatures.
Scheduled Castes and tribes
A large number of seats in the Parliament of India, State Assemblies, Municipalites and Village level institutions are reserved for Dalits or Scheduled Castes (SC) and Adivasis or Scheduled Tribes (ST). The election of SC and ST candidates is by a Joint or mixed electorate, which includes all castes, even though the SC/Dalits and ST/Adivasis may be in a minority in the constituency. This system was introduced by the Constitution of India in 1950 and was supposed to be in place for the first 10 years, to ensure participation in politics by these groups which were deemed weak and needing special protection. However, the reservations have been continued even after that period and have become a permanent feature of Indian politics, as the SC/Dalits and ST/Adivasis constitute a quarter of the total voting population and no politician can afford to be seen as doing anything seemingly against the interests of these groups, as that is considered political suicide in India.
In practice, out of 543 constituencies represented in the Lok Sabha, the lower house India's parliament, 84 (15.47%) are reserved for SC/Dalits and 47 (8.66%) are reserved for ST/Adivasis.
Allocation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Lok Sabha are made on the basis of proportion of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the State concerned to that of the total population, vide provision contained in Article 330 of the Constitution of India read with Section 3 of the R. P. Act, 1950.
The result of this high and compulsory reservations and frozen reserved constituencies is a feeling of disenfranchisement by non-ST/SC people in the reserved constituencies, who constitute the majority of the population there. They plead that such permanently reserved constituencies have no place in a democracy that guarantees universal franchise. The voter turnout is low, typically 40% in these constituencies.
In addition, SC/Dalit and ST/Adivasi leaders are also chosen as their representatives by non-reserved constituencies with substantial Dalit and Adivasi populations. Therefore, the SC/ST group is eagerly wooed by all Indian political parties, who want to be seen as the most ardent protectors of SC/ST interests.
Women get one-third reservation in Gram Panchayats (meaning village assembly, which is a form of local village government) and Municipal elections. There is a long-term plan to extend this reservation to Parliament and Legislative assemblies. The Women's Reservation Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha on 9 March 2010 by a majority vote of 186 members in favor and 1 against. It will now go to the Lok Sabha, and if passed there, would be implemented.
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