Assembly Election in Haryana
- The state had been previously ruled by the Congress party since 1982
- Opposition leader Chaudhary Devi led 'Nyaya Yudh' movement (Struggle for Justice)
- Formed a new party Lok Dal, joined with other opposition parties against Congress
Election Campaign Promises
- Waive loans for farmers and small businessmen if elected
- Attracted unhappy citizens with this promise
Question for Detailed Chapter Notes - Electoral Politics
Try yourself: What was the main reason for the formation of the Lok Dal party in Haryana?
- The main reason for the formation of the Lok Dal party in Haryana was to unite with other opposition parties against the ruling Congress party.
- The state had been ruled by the Congress party since 1982, and Chaudhary Devi, the opposition leader, led the 'Nyaya Yudh' movement (Struggle for Justice) against them.
- As a result, Chaudhary Devi formed a new party called Lok Dal and joined forces with other opposition parties to challenge the Congress in the state elections.
- While it is mentioned in the text that Chaudhary Devi made election campaign promises such as waiving loans for farmers and small businessmen, the main reason for the formation of the Lok Dal party was to unite with other opposition parties against the Congress.
- The public was unhappy with the current government and found Devi's promise appealing
- Lok Dal and allies won 76 out of 90 seats in the State Assembly
- Lok Dal alone won 60 seats, and Congress only 5
- Devi Lal was chosen as leader by newly elected MLAs
- The Governor then invited by Governor to be the new Chief Minister
Devi Lal Government Actions
- Waived outstanding loans for small farmers, agricultural labourers, and small businessmen
- Ruled the state for four years
1991 Haryana State Assembly Election
- Lok Dal did not win popular support
- Congress won the election and formed the government
Why Do We Need Elections?
- In a democracy, people rule through their representatives.
- Large communities cannot make decisions together daily.
- Not everyone has the time or knowledge to make decisions on all matters.
Selecting representatives without elections
- Some places might choose representatives based on age, experience, or education.
- Difficulties may arise in determining the most experienced or knowledgeable
Why elections are essential in a representative democracy
- Elections allow people to choose their representatives at regular intervals.
- They provide a mechanism for people to change their representatives if they wish.
Choices voters make during elections
- Voters choose who will make laws for them.
- Voters decide who will form the government and make major decisions.
- Voters select the party whose policies will guide the government and lawmaking.
Question for Detailed Chapter Notes - Electoral Politics
Try yourself: Why do we need elections in a democracy?
- Elections are an essential part of a democracy as they allow people to choose their representatives at regular intervals.
- Through elections, citizens have the power to select the individuals who will make laws on their behalf.
- Elections also provide an opportunity for people to change their representatives if they are dissatisfied with their performance or policies.
- This ensures that the government remains accountable to the people and reflects their changing needs and preferences.
- The option "To determine the most experienced and knowledgeable leaders" is not a primary purpose of elections in a democracy. While experience and knowledge are important qualities, elections focus more on the choice of representatives based on the will of the people.
- The options "To waive outstanding loans for small farmers and businessmen" and "To form a government and make major decisions" are outcomes or actions that may occur as a result of elections, but they are not the fundamental reasons for holding elections in a democracy.
What Makes an Election Democratic?
Democratic Elections vs. Other Elections
- Democratic elections exist in all democratic countries, while some non-democratic countries also hold elections.
- It's essential to distinguish democratic elections from other elections for a better understanding.
Minimum Conditions for Democratic Elections
- Equal voting rights: Everyone should have one vote, and each vote should have equal value.
- Availability of choices: Parties and candidates should be free to contest elections, providing real choices to voters.
- Regular intervals: Elections should be held every few years to maintain a democratic system.
- People's preference: The candidate preferred by the majority should be elected.
- Free and fair conduct: Elections should be conducted in a manner where people can choose according to their wishes.
Applying Conditions to Our Country
- It's necessary to assess if these conditions are met in our country to determine if our elections are democratic.
- Many countries do not fulfill these simple yet essential conditions for democratic elections.
Elections and Political Competition
- Elections are essentially about political rivalry.
- This rivalry occurs in different ways.
- The most apparent form is the competition amongst political parties.
- At the constituency level, it involves a contest between multiple candidates.
- Without competition, elections would lose their purpose.
Drawbacks of Electoral Competition
The system of elections gives rise to political competition. Political competition has its own costs :
- It creates a sense of disunity and factionalism.
- Different political parties and leaders often use dirty tricks to win elections.
- Parties and leaders often level allegations against each other.
- This pressure to win electoral fights does not allow sensible long-term policies to be formulated.
- The environment created by competition dissuades many people from entering the political arena.
Why Free Competition in Elections was Chosen
- Constitution makers aware of drawbacks, but believed it works better in the long run
- Ideal world would not require political competition
- Real-life political leaders motivated by advancing their careers and gaining power
- Risky to rely on leaders' sense of duty alone
- Leaders may not know what people want, or their ideas may not match public needs
Dealing with Real Life Situations
In order to address real-life situations, there are two approaches.
- One is to enhance the knowledge and character of political leaders.
- While the other, more practical method is to establish a system where leaders are rewarded for serving the public and penalised for failing to do so.
Who Decides the Rewards and Punishments?
- The straightforward answer is the people. This is the purpose of electoral competition.
- Frequent electoral contests offer incentives to political parties and leaders, as they know that if they address issues important to the public, their popularity and likelihood of winning the next election will increase.
- However, if they don't meet the voters' expectations, they won't succeed in future elections.
- Thus, even if a political party is solely driven by the desire to be in power, it will still be compelled to serve the public.
- This is similar to how the market operates – even if a shopkeeper is only interested in profit, they must provide good service to customers, or else the customers will go elsewhere.
- Likewise, political competition may lead to divisions and unpleasantness, but ultimately, it forces political parties and leaders to serve the people.
What is Our System of Elections?
To determine whether Indian elections are democratic, let's examine how they are conducted.
- Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha (Assembly) elections take place every five years, at which point the term of all elected representatives ends, and the Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha is considered 'dissolved'.
- Elections occur in all constituencies either on the same day or within a few days, which is known as a general election.
- Occasionally, an election is held in a single constituency to fill a vacancy caused by a member's death or resignation, and this is called a by-election.
- India follows an area based system of representation. For this purpose, the country is divided into different areas for purposes of elections. These are called electoral constituencies.
- Voters who live in a constituency elect a representative for their area.
- For Lok Sabha elections, the country is divided into 543 constituencies.
- Each constituency elects a representative, known as a Member of Parliament or MP.
- Therefore, 543 MPs get elected to Lok Sabha as people’s representatives.
- In a democratic election, every vote should hold equal value, so the Constitution mandates that each constituency should have a roughly equal population.
- Each state is also divided into a specific number of Assembly constituencies, where the elected representative is called the Member of Legislative Assembly or MLA.
- The same principle applies to Panchayat and Municipal elections. Every village or town is divided into various 'wards' that function like constituencies. Each ward elects one member of the village or urban local body.
- Sometimes, these constituencies are referred to as 'seats', as each constituency represents one seat in the assembly.
- For example, when we say 'Lok Dal won 60 seats' in Haryana, it means that Lok Dal candidates emerged victorious in 60 assembly constituencies in the state, resulting in 60 MLAs for Lok Dal in the state assembly.
A true democracy provides equal opportunity to all individuals and sections of society to take part in elections get elected and share in the governance of the economy.
Concerns of Constitution Makers
- Weaker sections may not have a fair chance in open electoral competition
- Lack of resources, education, and contacts could hinder their chances of winning elections.
- Democracy would be less representative without the voice of these significant sections
- Special system for weaker sections (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes).
- SC reserved constituencies: only Scheduled Castes candidates can stand for election.
- ST reserved constituencies: only Scheduled Tribes candidates can stand for election.
- 84 Lok Sabha seats reserved for Scheduled Castes, 47 for Scheduled Tribes (as on 26 January).
- Reservation system extended to district and local level.
- Seats in rural (panchayat) and urban (municipalities and corporations) local bodies reserved for Other Backward Classes (OBC) in many states.
- Proportion of seats reserved varies from state to state
- One-third of seats reserved in rural and urban local bodies for women candidates.
- Deciding Voter Eligibility cannot be left to anyone till the last day
- List of eligible voters prepared much before the election
- Officially called the Electoral Roll, commonly known as Voters' List
Equal Opportunity in Democratic Elections
- Universal adult franchise principle
- One vote per person, each vote having equal value
- No discrimination based on caste, religion, or gender
Voting Age and Eligibility
- Citizens aged 18 years and above can vote
- Some criminals and persons with unsound minds can be denied the right to vote in rare situations
- Government responsibility to keep voters' list updated
Updating the Voters' List
- Adding new eligible voters and removing those who moved or passed away
- Complete revision of the list every five years
- Introduction of the Election Photo Identity Card (EPIC) system
Identification for Voting
- Voters are required to carry EPIC when voting
- Other proofs of identity accepted, such as ration card or driving license
- EPIC is not yet compulsory for voting
Nomination of Candidates
Democratic Elections and Candidate Eligibility
- Minimal restrictions on candidacy ensure the real choice in democratic elections.
- Anyone who can be a voter can also become a candidate, with a minimum age of 25 years.
- Some other restrictions apply to criminals in extreme cases.
- Political parties nominate candidates who receive the party symbol and support.
- Candidates must fill in a 'nomination form' and provide a 'security deposit' to contest in an election.
- A new declaration system has been introduced per the Supreme Court's direction.
- Candidates must provide a legal declaration with their personal details.
- Serious criminal cases pending against the candidate.
- Details of assets and liabilities of the candidate and their family.
- Educational qualifications of the candidate.
- This information is made public, allowing voters to make informed decisions.
- Main Purpose of Election Give people a chance to choose representatives, government, and policies
- It Necessitates free and open discussions during election campaigns
- The two-week period between candidate list announcement and polling date
- Includes candidates contacting voters, political leaders addressing meetings, and party supporters mobilizing
- Newspapers and television news filled with election-related stories and debates
- Political parties start preparing for elections months in advance
Successful Slogans in Various Elections
- Garibi Hatao (Remove poverty) - Congress party led by Indira Gandhi, Lok Sabha elections 1971
- Save Democracy - Janata Party under Jayaprakash Narayan, Lok Sabha election 1977
- Land to the Tiller - Left Front, West Bengal Assembly elections 1977
- Protect the Self-Respect of the Telugus - N. T. Rama Rao, Telugu Desam Party, Andhra Pradesh Assembly elections 1983
Election Campaign Regulations
- No party or candidate can bribe or threaten voters
- No party or candidate can appeal to voters in the name of caste or religion
- No party or candidate can use government resources for election campaigns
- Spending limits: 25 lakh in a constituency for a Lok Sabha election, 10 lakh in a constituency for an Assembly election
Model Code of Conduct for Election Campaigns
- No party or candidate can use any place of worship for election propaganda
- No party or candidate can use government vehicles, aircrafts, and officials for elections
- 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
- On the Election Day, every person whose name is on the voters’ list can go to a nearbe’ polling booth’, situated usually in a local school or a government office.
- Once the voter goes inside the booth, the election officials identify her, put a mark on his finger and allow him to cast his vote. An agent of each candidate is allowed to sit inside the polling booth and ensure that the voting takes place in a fair way.
- Earlier the voters used to indicate whom they wanted to vote for by putting stamp on the ballot paper. A ballot paper is a sheet of paper on which the names of the contesting candidates along with party name and symbols are listed.
- Nowadays electronic voting machines (EVM) are used to record votes. the machine shows the names of the candidates and the party symbols. Independent candidates too have their own symbols, allotted by election officials. All the voter has to do is to press the button against the name of the candidate he wants to give his vote.
- Once the polling is over, all the EVMs are sealed and taken to a secure place. a few days later, on a fixed data, all the EVMs from a constituency are opened and the votes secured by each candidate are counted. The agents of all candidates are present there to ensure that the counting is done properly. The candidate who secures the highest number of votes from a constituency is declared elected.
- In a general election, usually the counting of votes in all the constituencies takes place at the same time, on the same day. Television channels, radio and newspapers report this event. Within a few hours of counting, all the results are declared and it becomes clear as to who will form the next government.
What Makes Elections in India Democracy?
Independent Election Commission
Election Commission is an independent body provided for in the Constitution.
The whole election business is carried out by the Election Commission. It is charged with the responsibility of conducting free and fair elections which are the foundation of the whole system of democracy. Headed by the Chief Election Commissioner and two other members, the functions of the Commission are as follows:
- Preparation of voters ‘list
- Delimitation of the constituencies
- Controlling the election machinery
- Recognizing newly formed parties
- Allotting party symbols to parties
- Conducting of polling and counting of votes
- Announcement of results.
The procedure for the appointment of Election Commission is laid down in the Constitution. The Election Commission makes sure that the party in power does not take undue advantage of its position.
Another way to check the quality of the election process in to. See whether people participate in it with enthusiasm. If the election process is not free or fair, people will not continue to participate in the exercise.
- People’s participation in election is usually measured by voter turnout figures. Tumout indicates the per cent of eligible voters who actually cast their vote. over the last fifty years, the tumout in Europe and North America has declined. In India the turnout has either remained stable or actually gone up.
- In India the poor, illiterate and underprivileged people vote in large proportion as compared to the rich and privileged sections. this is in contrast to western democracies.
- Common people in India attach a lot of importance to elections. They feel that through election they can bring pressure on political parties to adopt policies and programmes favorable to them. They also feel that their vote matters in the way things are run in the country.
- 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 the campaign-related activities. More than half of the people identified themselves as being close to one or the other political party. One out of every seven voters is a member of a political party.
Acceptance of Election Outcome
If election are not free and fair, the outcome always favours the powerful. in such a situation, the ruling parties do not lose elections. The outcome of India’s elections speaks for itself:
- The ruling parties routinely lose elections in India both at the national and state level. In fact in every two out of the three elections held in the last fifteen years, the ruling party lost.
- In the US, an incumbent or ‘sitting’ elected representative rarely loses an election. In India about half of the sitting MPs or MLAs lose elections.
- Candidates who are known to have spent a lot of money on ‘buying votes’ and those with known criminal connections often lose elections.
- Barring few disputed elections, the electoral outcomes are usually accepted as ‘people’s verdict’ by the defeated party.
Challenges to free and fair elections
- 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 in policies and practice.
- Smaller parties and independent candidates suffer a huge disadvantage compared to bigger parties.
These challenges exist not just in India but also in many established democracies. these deeper issues are a matter of concern for those who believe in democracy. That is why citizens, social activists and organizations have been demanding reforms in our electoral system.