Importance of Election: Elections form the backbone of democracy wherein people elect their political representatives and decide the composition of the government. Holding free and fair elections on a state and national level is integral to upholding the principles of democratic set up in India. From parliamentary elections to the presidential polls, India goes through the electoral process at regular intervals.
The Constitution lays down that after the completion of each census the allocation of seats in the Lok Sabha to States shall be readjusted. Similarly, the constituencies for elections to the legislative assemblies are also readjusted.
However, 42nd Amendment Act (1976) provided that until the figures for the first census after the year 2000 have been published, it shall not be necessary to readjust the allocation of seats to the States in the Lok Sabha.
The nomination of candidates is an important part of the election process. The regulations require that the candidate or the person who proposes his name file the nomination papers with the Returning Officer. In order to be chosen a member of the Rajya Sabha or the State Legislative Council, a person must be not less than 30 years of age.
For election to the Lok Sabha or the State Legislative Assembly, a person should have attained the age of 25 years. A person is disqualified for being chosen as a member of any House,
The Representation of the People act, as amended from time to time disqualifies a person from the membership of a Legislature:
In 1988 many other offenses, such as cruelty towards women, were included among those which would cause disqualification for standing for election. But none of these disqualifications operates for a period of more than six years from the date of such conviction.
The Returning Officer scrutinizes the nomination papers very carefully. When someone is dissatisfied, he is officially stopped from contesting the election for six years. The candidates can withdraw their nomination papers even after they have been found in order.
Every candidate standing for election to the Lok Sabha or to State Legislative Assembly has to make a security deposit of Rs. 10,000 arid Rs. 5,000 respectively. In case the candidate belongs to any of the Scheduled Castes or Tribes, the security deposit is reduced by half.
The security deposit of such candidates as having obtained less than one-sixth of the total number of valid votes polled is forfeited.
Techniques of the election campaign and the tools employed by the parties and the independent candidates are many:
(i) Election Manifesto:
The parties issue their Election Manifestoes. A Manifesto is a Statement of great significance. It is “a formal Statement of the Programme and objectives of a political party” It deals with issues such as the restructuring of Centre-State relations, guarantees to religious or linguistic minorities, justice, and judicial reforms, fiscal reform, economic growth, social justice, problems of the handicapped, health, nutrition, education, defense, and world peace. The Manifesto contains programs and promises, with a view to attracting the largest number of voters.
(ii) Electioneering (Activities and Techniques to Persuade Voters):
The parties and the candidates usually make use of these techniques in order to carry their message to the voters
(a) public meetings and rallies are organized and processions were taken out. The party leaders, especially the crowd pullers, are assigned the task to address public meetings;
(b) the street corner meetings are held;
(c) the candidates, along with the influential persons of the area, do door-to-door canvassing;
(d) new slogans are coined to attract the masses;
(e) advertisements are released to the press (the popular daily and weekly newspapers); and
(f) the Radio and the Television are pressed into service to broadcast the speeches and panel-discussions of leaders of various parties.
Nowadays electronic media plays the most effective role in creating people’s awareness about programs of the political parties. The party leaders give a series of interviews to newspapers and television agencies. Wide coverage is being given to all these events at regular intervals.
The election campaign must be stopped 48 hours before the time when the poll concludes on the polling day.
Presiding Officer supervises the whole of the polling process and ensures that all persons working under him adhere to the electoral norms and practices.
The voter records his vote either by placing the seal-mark against the name of the candidate he wants to vote for or by pressing the button of the voting machine.
After the polling has ended the ballot boxes or the voting machines are sealed and carried under custody to the counting stations. Then the process of counting the votes begins. In 1979, the practice of booth-wise counting of ballot paper was revived.
It was done in the instance of the parties which insisted on knowing the voting pattern so that they could woo the voters and work vigorously in the areas where they were weak. Booth-wise counting was preferred for one more reason.
The parties felt that by doing so it would be easier to detect rigging and take necessary action. However, there is no hard and fast rule as to the counting of votes and the Election authorities are free to mix up the ballot papers from all the booths if they feel that it ensured secrecy with regard to the pattern of voting. The candidate who obtains the highest number of votes is declared elected.
The law fixes the maximum limit of the expenses to be incurred by various contenders in their election. In 1998, the limit of election expenses for an Assembly election in most States was raised from Rs. 1.50 lakh to Rs. 6 lakhs.
It was enhanced from Rs. 4.50 lakh to Rs. 15 lakhs for a Parliamentary contest. The candidates are required to file an account of the election expenses. It is a corrupt practice for a candidate to spend more money than the prescribed amount on his election.
The Constitution had originally provided for the appointment of Election Tribunals for deciding disputes arising in connection with elections. The Nineteenth Amendment Act (1966) abolished this provision and laid down that the election disputes would be decided by the High Courts.
Lok Sabha Elections:
After every five years, the entire country gears up to decide their representatives in the Lower House of Parliament. For Lok Sabha elections (or General Elections), the country is split into different constituencies, and the winner is elected from each constituency.
As per Article 324 of the Indian Constitution, the power of superintendence, direction, and control of the conduct of elections is vested with the Election Commission of India. In its efforts to ensure smooth conduct of the mammoth electoral exercise, the commission is assisted by two Deputy Election Commissioners, who are appointed from the national civil services.
Rajya Sabha Elections:
Unlike Lok Sabha, the members of Rajya Sabha are not directly elected by the electorates. The elections to the Upper House of the Parliament happen through the Legislative Assembly of each state by using the single transferable vote system. To know the Importance of election read the entire article here.
Out of the maximum strength of 250 members, 238 are elected by the legislative assemblies and 12 are nominated by the President of India. The representatives of states and Union Territories in the Rajya Sabha are elected by the elected members of the Legislative Assemblies in accordance with the system of proportional representation. With one-third of its members retiring every two years, the elections to Rajya Sabha happen at respective intervals.
State Legislature Elections:
Elections to the Legislative Assembly (Vidhan Sabha) are conducted in the same way the Lok Sabha elections are carried out. Electorates consisting of citizens in a state above the age of 18 votes for their state representatives. Each legislative Assembly is formed for a five-year term following which all seats again go to the polls.
The elections to Legislative Council (Vidhan Parishad) replicate the same process as that of Rajya Sabha, wherein the representatives are chosen by the members of the lower house. Besides, the Governor also nominates certain members from the field of art, science, literature, social service, and the co-operative movement. The elections to these legislative councils are held under the system of proportional representation.
At the state level, the entire electoral process is monitored and supervised by the Election Commission. The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of the state has the responsibility of ensuring that the polling takes place as per the constitutional provisions. The CEO is helped by a team of supporting staff.
Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections:
The President is indirectly elected by an electoral college consisting of the elected members of Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and the members of the legislative assemblies of every state and union territory. The presidential election is conducted before the present president’s term gets over.
As per the provision of Article 55 of the Indian Constitution, a uniformity has to be maintained in the scale of representation of the different states. Hence, the election of the President is held in accordance with the system of proportional representation and the voting happens through a secret ballot.
The Vice-President is elected by a direct vote of all members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. The system of proportional representation is followed and the votes are cast through a secret ballot. It’s the Election Commission that conducts the election to the office of the Vice-President.