Elections and India

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 the members of Lok Sabha, lower house of the parliament of India. All members of Lok Sabha except two, who can be nominated by president of India, are directly elected through general elections which takes place every five years, in normal circumstances, by universal adult suffrage.

Members of Rajya Sabha, upper house of Indian parliament, are elected by elected members of the legislative assemblies of states and electoral college for Union Territories of India. In 2009, the elections involved an electorate of 714 million (larger than both EU and US elections combined). Declared expenditure has trebled since 1989 to almost $300 million, using more than one million electronic voting machines. The size of the huge electorate mandates that elections be conducted in a number of phases (there were four phases in 2004 General Elections and five phases in 2009 General Elections).

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 way for the formation of the new government. ………. Indian electoral system 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) intend to represent the Anglo-Indian community (as envisaged by the Constitution of India, currently the members of Lok Sabha are 545, out of which 543 are elected for 5-year term and 2 members represent the Anglo-Indian community). The 550 members are elected under the plurality (‘first past the post’) electoral system.

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.

…………. History of elections in India 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 530 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.

…………………. History of political parties 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 by 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 AIADMK 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 or are strongly influenced by caste considerations, e. g. Bahujan Samaj Party which claims to represent the Dalits. Presently, the United Progressive Alliance led by the Congress Party is in power, while the National Democratic Alliance forms the opposition.

Manmohan Singh was re-elected the Prime Minister of India. …………………… Electoral process 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. …………………. Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail system (VVPAT) The Government of India, via notification, dated 14 August 2013, has amended the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, enabling the Election Commission of India to use Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail system (VVPAT) with the Electronic Voting Machines.

The Election Commission of India has decided to use the VVPAT system at the By-election for 51 Noksen Assembly Constituency of Nagaland. …………………….. Pre elections 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 polling day. …….. Voting day.

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 bogus voting.

……………………… “None of the above” voting option (Negative Vote) “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. [9] 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.

[10] On September 27 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. [11][12][13] Election Commission will implement this option of “None of the above” voting option in EVM machines w. e. f. five states polls staring from Nov. ,2013.

However it does not mean that if non of the above gets highest votes then election will be conducted again, rather even in that case the candidate who won among all will be treated as elected candidate. ……………………… Post elections 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 For few cities in India, the voter registration forms can be generated online and submitted to the nearest electoral office. ………….. Absentee voting Currently, India does not have an absentee ballot system.

Section 19 of The Representation of the People Act (RPA)-1950[15] 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 November 24, 2010. [16] 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. [17][18] People for Lok Satta has been actively pushing combination of internet and postal ballot as a viable means for NRI voting.