NCERT Textbook - Electoral Politics Notes | Study Indian Polity for UPSC CSE - UPSC

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 Page 1


34 DEMOCRATIC POLITICS
OVERVIEW
In Chapter 1 we have seen that in a democracy it is neither possible nor
necessary for people to govern directly. The most common form of
democracy in our times is for the people to govern through their
representatives. In this chapter we will look at how these representatives
are elected. We begin by understanding why elections are necessary and
useful in a democracy. We try to understand how electoral competition
among parties serves the people. We then go on to ask what makes an
election democratic. The basic idea here is to distinguish democratic
elections from non-democratic elections.
The rest of the chapter tries to assess elections in India in the light of
this yardstick. We take a look at each stage of elections, from the drawing
of boundaries of different constituencies to the declaration of results. At
each stage we ask what should happen and what does happen in elections.
Towards the end of the chapter, we turn to an assessment of whether
elections in India are free and fair. Here we also examine the role of the
Election Commission in ensuring free and fair elections.
CHAPTER 3
Electoral
Politics
2020-21
Page 2


34 DEMOCRATIC POLITICS
OVERVIEW
In Chapter 1 we have seen that in a democracy it is neither possible nor
necessary for people to govern directly. The most common form of
democracy in our times is for the people to govern through their
representatives. In this chapter we will look at how these representatives
are elected. We begin by understanding why elections are necessary and
useful in a democracy. We try to understand how electoral competition
among parties serves the people. We then go on to ask what makes an
election democratic. The basic idea here is to distinguish democratic
elections from non-democratic elections.
The rest of the chapter tries to assess elections in India in the light of
this yardstick. We take a look at each stage of elections, from the drawing
of boundaries of different constituencies to the declaration of results. At
each stage we ask what should happen and what does happen in elections.
Towards the end of the chapter, we turn to an assessment of whether
elections in India are free and fair. Here we also examine the role of the
Election Commission in ensuring free and fair elections.
CHAPTER 3
Electoral
Politics
2020-21
35
3.1 WHY ELECTIONS?
government would waive the loans
of farmers and small businessmen.
He promised that this would be the
first action of his government.
The people were unhappy with the
existing government. They were also
attracted by Devi Lal’s promise. So,
when elections were held, they voted
overwhelmingly in favour of Lok Dal
and its allies. Lok Dal and its
partners won 76 out of 90 seats in
the State Assembly. Lok Dal alone
won 60 seats and thus had a clear
majority in the Assembly. The
Congress could win only 5 seats.
Once the election results were
announced, the sitting Chief
Minister resigned. The newly elected
Members of Legislative Assembly
(MLAs) of Lok Dal chose Devi Lal as
their leader. The Governor invited
Devi Lal to be the new Chief
Minister. Three days after the
election results were declared, he
became the Chief Minister. As soon
as he became the Chief Minister, his
Government issued a Government
Order waiving the outstanding loans
of small farmers, agricultural
labourers and small businessmen.
His party ruled the State for four
years. The next elections were held
in 1991. But this time his party did
not win popular support. The
Congress won the election and
formed the government.
Assembly Election in Assembly Election in Assembly Election in Assembly Election in Assembly Election in
H H H H Har ar ar ar ary yy yyana ana ana ana ana
Do most leaders
fulfil their election
promises?
Jagdeep and Navpreet read this story and drew the following conclusions. Can you say which of
these are right or wrong (or if the information given in the story is inadequate to call them right or
wrong):
< Elections can lead to changes in the policy of the government.
< The Governor invited Devi Lal to become the Chief Minister because he was impressed with his
speeches.
< People are unhappy with every ruling party and vote against it in the next election.
< The party that wins the election forms the government.
< This election led to a lot of economic development in Haryana.
< The Congress Chief Minister need not have resigned after his party lost elections.
CHECK
YOUR
PROGRESS
This newspaper report is about the
State assembly election in Haryana
in 1987. The State had been ruled by
a Congress party led government
since 1982. Chaudhary Devi Lal, then
an opposition leader, led a movement
called ‘Nyaya Yudh’ (Struggle for
Justice) and formed a new party, Lok
Dal. His party joined other opposition
parties to form a front against the
Congress in the elections. In the
election campaign, Devi Lal said that
if his party won the elections, his
The time is after midnight. An expectant
crowd sitting for the past five hours in a
chowk of the town is waiting for its leader
to come. The organisers assure and reas-
sure the crowd that he would be here any
moment. The crowd stands up whenever
a passing vehicle comes that way. It
arouses hopes that he has come.
The leader is Mr. Devi Lal, chief of
the Haryana Sangharsh Samiti, who was
to address a meeting in Karnal on Thurs-
day night. The 76-year-old leader, is a
very busy man these days. His day starts
at 8 a.m. and ends after 11 p.m. … he
had already addressed nine election
meetings since morning… been con-
stantly addressing public meetings for
the past 23 months and preparing for this
election.
ELECTORAL POLITICS
2020-21
Page 3


34 DEMOCRATIC POLITICS
OVERVIEW
In Chapter 1 we have seen that in a democracy it is neither possible nor
necessary for people to govern directly. The most common form of
democracy in our times is for the people to govern through their
representatives. In this chapter we will look at how these representatives
are elected. We begin by understanding why elections are necessary and
useful in a democracy. We try to understand how electoral competition
among parties serves the people. We then go on to ask what makes an
election democratic. The basic idea here is to distinguish democratic
elections from non-democratic elections.
The rest of the chapter tries to assess elections in India in the light of
this yardstick. We take a look at each stage of elections, from the drawing
of boundaries of different constituencies to the declaration of results. At
each stage we ask what should happen and what does happen in elections.
Towards the end of the chapter, we turn to an assessment of whether
elections in India are free and fair. Here we also examine the role of the
Election Commission in ensuring free and fair elections.
CHAPTER 3
Electoral
Politics
2020-21
35
3.1 WHY ELECTIONS?
government would waive the loans
of farmers and small businessmen.
He promised that this would be the
first action of his government.
The people were unhappy with the
existing government. They were also
attracted by Devi Lal’s promise. So,
when elections were held, they voted
overwhelmingly in favour of Lok Dal
and its allies. Lok Dal and its
partners won 76 out of 90 seats in
the State Assembly. Lok Dal alone
won 60 seats and thus had a clear
majority in the Assembly. The
Congress could win only 5 seats.
Once the election results were
announced, the sitting Chief
Minister resigned. The newly elected
Members of Legislative Assembly
(MLAs) of Lok Dal chose Devi Lal as
their leader. The Governor invited
Devi Lal to be the new Chief
Minister. Three days after the
election results were declared, he
became the Chief Minister. As soon
as he became the Chief Minister, his
Government issued a Government
Order waiving the outstanding loans
of small farmers, agricultural
labourers and small businessmen.
His party ruled the State for four
years. The next elections were held
in 1991. But this time his party did
not win popular support. The
Congress won the election and
formed the government.
Assembly Election in Assembly Election in Assembly Election in Assembly Election in Assembly Election in
H H H H Har ar ar ar ary yy yyana ana ana ana ana
Do most leaders
fulfil their election
promises?
Jagdeep and Navpreet read this story and drew the following conclusions. Can you say which of
these are right or wrong (or if the information given in the story is inadequate to call them right or
wrong):
< Elections can lead to changes in the policy of the government.
< The Governor invited Devi Lal to become the Chief Minister because he was impressed with his
speeches.
< People are unhappy with every ruling party and vote against it in the next election.
< The party that wins the election forms the government.
< This election led to a lot of economic development in Haryana.
< The Congress Chief Minister need not have resigned after his party lost elections.
CHECK
YOUR
PROGRESS
This newspaper report is about the
State assembly election in Haryana
in 1987. The State had been ruled by
a Congress party led government
since 1982. Chaudhary Devi Lal, then
an opposition leader, led a movement
called ‘Nyaya Yudh’ (Struggle for
Justice) and formed a new party, Lok
Dal. His party joined other opposition
parties to form a front against the
Congress in the elections. In the
election campaign, Devi Lal said that
if his party won the elections, his
The time is after midnight. An expectant
crowd sitting for the past five hours in a
chowk of the town is waiting for its leader
to come. The organisers assure and reas-
sure the crowd that he would be here any
moment. The crowd stands up whenever
a passing vehicle comes that way. It
arouses hopes that he has come.
The leader is Mr. Devi Lal, chief of
the Haryana Sangharsh Samiti, who was
to address a meeting in Karnal on Thurs-
day night. The 76-year-old leader, is a
very busy man these days. His day starts
at 8 a.m. and ends after 11 p.m. … he
had already addressed nine election
meetings since morning… been con-
stantly addressing public meetings for
the past 23 months and preparing for this
election.
ELECTORAL POLITICS
2020-21
36 DEMOCRATIC POLITICS
ACTIVITY
Do you know when the last Assembly election
was held in your state? Which other elections
have taken place in your locality in the last five
years? Write down the level of elections (National,
Assembly, Panchayat, etc.), when were they held
and the name and designation (MP , MLA, etc.) of
the persons who got elected from your area.
W W W W Wh h h h hy do w y do w y do w y do w y do we nee e nee e nee e nee e need ele d ele d ele d ele d elec c c c ctions? tions? tions? tions? tions?
Elections take place regularly in
any democracy. There are more than
one hundred countries in the world
in which elections take place to
choose people’s representatives. We
also read that elections are held in
many countries that are not
democratic.
But why do we need elections?
Let us try to imagine a democracy
without elections. A rule of the
people is possible without any
elections if all the people can sit
together everyday and take all the
decisions. But as we have already
seen in Chapter 1, this is not
possible in any large community.
Nor is it possible for everyone to
have the time and knowledge to
take decisions on all matters.
Therefore in most democracies
people rule through their
representatives.
Is there a democratic way of
selecting representatives without
elections? Let us think of a place
where representatives are selected
on the basis of age and experience.
Or a place where they are chosen
on the basis of education or
knowledge. There could be some
difficulty in deciding on who is more
experienced or knowledgable. But let
us say the people can resolve these
difficulties. Clearly, such a place
does not require elections.
But can we call this place a
democracy? How do we find out if
the people like their representatives
or not? How do we ensure that these
representatives rule as per the
wishes of the people? How to make
sure that those who the people don’t
like do not remain their
representatives? This requires a
mechanism by which people can
choose their representatives at
regular intervals and change them
if they wish to do so. This
mechanism is called election.
Therefore, elections are considered
essential in our times for any
representative democracy.
In an election the voters make
many choices:
<They can choose who will make
laws for them.
< They can choose who will form the
government and take major
decisions.
< They can choose the party whose
policies will guide the government
and law making.
W W W W Wha ha ha ha hat mak t mak t mak t mak t makes an ele es an ele es an ele es an ele es an elec c c c ction tion tion tion tion
democr democr democr democr democra a a a atic? tic? tic? tic? tic?
Elections can be held in many ways.
All democratic countries hold
elections. But most non-democratic
countries also hold some kind of
elections. How do we distinguish
democratic elections from any other
election? We have discussed this
question briefly in Chapter 1. We
discussed many examples of
countries where elections are held
but they can’t really be called
democratic elections. Let us recall
what we learnt there and start with
a simple list of the minimum
conditions of a democratic election:
<First, everyone should be able to
choose. This means that everyone
should have one vote and every
vote should have equal value.
We have seen why
democracies need
to have elections.
But why do rulers
in non-democratic
countries need to
hold elections?
2020-21
Page 4


34 DEMOCRATIC POLITICS
OVERVIEW
In Chapter 1 we have seen that in a democracy it is neither possible nor
necessary for people to govern directly. The most common form of
democracy in our times is for the people to govern through their
representatives. In this chapter we will look at how these representatives
are elected. We begin by understanding why elections are necessary and
useful in a democracy. We try to understand how electoral competition
among parties serves the people. We then go on to ask what makes an
election democratic. The basic idea here is to distinguish democratic
elections from non-democratic elections.
The rest of the chapter tries to assess elections in India in the light of
this yardstick. We take a look at each stage of elections, from the drawing
of boundaries of different constituencies to the declaration of results. At
each stage we ask what should happen and what does happen in elections.
Towards the end of the chapter, we turn to an assessment of whether
elections in India are free and fair. Here we also examine the role of the
Election Commission in ensuring free and fair elections.
CHAPTER 3
Electoral
Politics
2020-21
35
3.1 WHY ELECTIONS?
government would waive the loans
of farmers and small businessmen.
He promised that this would be the
first action of his government.
The people were unhappy with the
existing government. They were also
attracted by Devi Lal’s promise. So,
when elections were held, they voted
overwhelmingly in favour of Lok Dal
and its allies. Lok Dal and its
partners won 76 out of 90 seats in
the State Assembly. Lok Dal alone
won 60 seats and thus had a clear
majority in the Assembly. The
Congress could win only 5 seats.
Once the election results were
announced, the sitting Chief
Minister resigned. The newly elected
Members of Legislative Assembly
(MLAs) of Lok Dal chose Devi Lal as
their leader. The Governor invited
Devi Lal to be the new Chief
Minister. Three days after the
election results were declared, he
became the Chief Minister. As soon
as he became the Chief Minister, his
Government issued a Government
Order waiving the outstanding loans
of small farmers, agricultural
labourers and small businessmen.
His party ruled the State for four
years. The next elections were held
in 1991. But this time his party did
not win popular support. The
Congress won the election and
formed the government.
Assembly Election in Assembly Election in Assembly Election in Assembly Election in Assembly Election in
H H H H Har ar ar ar ary yy yyana ana ana ana ana
Do most leaders
fulfil their election
promises?
Jagdeep and Navpreet read this story and drew the following conclusions. Can you say which of
these are right or wrong (or if the information given in the story is inadequate to call them right or
wrong):
< Elections can lead to changes in the policy of the government.
< The Governor invited Devi Lal to become the Chief Minister because he was impressed with his
speeches.
< People are unhappy with every ruling party and vote against it in the next election.
< The party that wins the election forms the government.
< This election led to a lot of economic development in Haryana.
< The Congress Chief Minister need not have resigned after his party lost elections.
CHECK
YOUR
PROGRESS
This newspaper report is about the
State assembly election in Haryana
in 1987. The State had been ruled by
a Congress party led government
since 1982. Chaudhary Devi Lal, then
an opposition leader, led a movement
called ‘Nyaya Yudh’ (Struggle for
Justice) and formed a new party, Lok
Dal. His party joined other opposition
parties to form a front against the
Congress in the elections. In the
election campaign, Devi Lal said that
if his party won the elections, his
The time is after midnight. An expectant
crowd sitting for the past five hours in a
chowk of the town is waiting for its leader
to come. The organisers assure and reas-
sure the crowd that he would be here any
moment. The crowd stands up whenever
a passing vehicle comes that way. It
arouses hopes that he has come.
The leader is Mr. Devi Lal, chief of
the Haryana Sangharsh Samiti, who was
to address a meeting in Karnal on Thurs-
day night. The 76-year-old leader, is a
very busy man these days. His day starts
at 8 a.m. and ends after 11 p.m. … he
had already addressed nine election
meetings since morning… been con-
stantly addressing public meetings for
the past 23 months and preparing for this
election.
ELECTORAL POLITICS
2020-21
36 DEMOCRATIC POLITICS
ACTIVITY
Do you know when the last Assembly election
was held in your state? Which other elections
have taken place in your locality in the last five
years? Write down the level of elections (National,
Assembly, Panchayat, etc.), when were they held
and the name and designation (MP , MLA, etc.) of
the persons who got elected from your area.
W W W W Wh h h h hy do w y do w y do w y do w y do we nee e nee e nee e nee e need ele d ele d ele d ele d elec c c c ctions? tions? tions? tions? tions?
Elections take place regularly in
any democracy. There are more than
one hundred countries in the world
in which elections take place to
choose people’s representatives. We
also read that elections are held in
many countries that are not
democratic.
But why do we need elections?
Let us try to imagine a democracy
without elections. A rule of the
people is possible without any
elections if all the people can sit
together everyday and take all the
decisions. But as we have already
seen in Chapter 1, this is not
possible in any large community.
Nor is it possible for everyone to
have the time and knowledge to
take decisions on all matters.
Therefore in most democracies
people rule through their
representatives.
Is there a democratic way of
selecting representatives without
elections? Let us think of a place
where representatives are selected
on the basis of age and experience.
Or a place where they are chosen
on the basis of education or
knowledge. There could be some
difficulty in deciding on who is more
experienced or knowledgable. But let
us say the people can resolve these
difficulties. Clearly, such a place
does not require elections.
But can we call this place a
democracy? How do we find out if
the people like their representatives
or not? How do we ensure that these
representatives rule as per the
wishes of the people? How to make
sure that those who the people don’t
like do not remain their
representatives? This requires a
mechanism by which people can
choose their representatives at
regular intervals and change them
if they wish to do so. This
mechanism is called election.
Therefore, elections are considered
essential in our times for any
representative democracy.
In an election the voters make
many choices:
<They can choose who will make
laws for them.
< They can choose who will form the
government and take major
decisions.
< They can choose the party whose
policies will guide the government
and law making.
W W W W Wha ha ha ha hat mak t mak t mak t mak t makes an ele es an ele es an ele es an ele es an elec c c c ction tion tion tion tion
democr democr democr democr democra a a a atic? tic? tic? tic? tic?
Elections can be held in many ways.
All democratic countries hold
elections. But most non-democratic
countries also hold some kind of
elections. How do we distinguish
democratic elections from any other
election? We have discussed this
question briefly in Chapter 1. We
discussed many examples of
countries where elections are held
but they can’t really be called
democratic elections. Let us recall
what we learnt there and start with
a simple list of the minimum
conditions of a democratic election:
<First, everyone should be able to
choose. This means that everyone
should have one vote and every
vote should have equal value.
We have seen why
democracies need
to have elections.
But why do rulers
in non-democratic
countries need to
hold elections?
2020-21
37
<Second, there should be
something to choose from. Parties
and candidates should be free to
contest elections and should offer
some real choice to the voters.
< Third, the choice should be offered
at regular intervals. Elections must
be held regularly after every few
years.
< Fourth, the candidate preferred by
the people should get elected.
<Fifth, elections should be
conducted in a free and fair
manner where people can choose
as they really wish.
These might look like very simple
and easy conditions. But there are
many countries where these are not
fulfilled. In this chapter we will apply
these conditions to the elections held
in our own country to see if we can
call these democratic elections.
I I I I Is it good t s it good t s it good t s it good t s it good to ha o ha o ha o ha o hav v v v ve political e political e political e political e political
c c c c competition? ompetition? ompetition? ompetition? ompetition?
Elections are thus all about political
competition. This competition takes
various forms. The most obvious form
is the competition among political
parties. At the constituency level, it
takes the form of competition among
several candidates. If there is no
competition, elections will become
pointless.
But is it good to have political
competition? Clearly, an electoral
competition has many demerits. It
creates a sense of disunity and
‘factionalism’ in every locality. You
would have heard of people
complaining of ‘party-politics’ in your
locality. Different political parties and
leaders often level allegations against
one another. Parties and candidates
often use dirty tricks to win elections.
Some people say that this pressure
to win electoral fights does not allow
sensible long-term policies to be
formulated. Some good people who
may wish to serve the country do not
enter this arena. They do not like the
idea of being dragged into unhealthy
competition.
Our Constitution makers were
aware of these problems. Yet they
opted for free competition in
elections as the way to select our
future leaders. They did so because
this system works better in the long
run. In an ideal world all political
leaders know what is good for the
people and are motivated only by a
desire to serve them. Political
competition is not necessary in such
an ideal world. But that is not what
happens in real life. Political leaders
all over the world, like all other
professionals, are motivated by a
desire to advance their political
careers. They want to remain in
power or get power and positions for
themselves.They may wish to serve
the people as well, but it is risky to
depend entirely on their sense of
duty. Besides even when they wish
to serve the people, they may not
know what is required to do so, or
their ideas may not match what the
people really want.
How do we deal with this real life
situation? One way is to try and
improve the knowledge and character
of political leaders. The other and
more realistic way is to set up a
system where political leaders are
rewarded for serving the people and
punished for not doing so. Who
decides this reward or punishment?
The simple answer is: the people.
This is what electoral competition
does. Regular electoral competition
provides incentives to political
parties and leaders. They know that
if they raise issues that people want
to be raised, their popularity and
chances of victory will increase in
the next elections. But if they fail to
satisfy the voters with their work
they will not be able to win again.
Ah! So, elections
are like exams
where politicians
and parties know if
they have passed
or failed. But who
are the examiners?
ELECTORAL POLITICS
2020-21
Page 5


34 DEMOCRATIC POLITICS
OVERVIEW
In Chapter 1 we have seen that in a democracy it is neither possible nor
necessary for people to govern directly. The most common form of
democracy in our times is for the people to govern through their
representatives. In this chapter we will look at how these representatives
are elected. We begin by understanding why elections are necessary and
useful in a democracy. We try to understand how electoral competition
among parties serves the people. We then go on to ask what makes an
election democratic. The basic idea here is to distinguish democratic
elections from non-democratic elections.
The rest of the chapter tries to assess elections in India in the light of
this yardstick. We take a look at each stage of elections, from the drawing
of boundaries of different constituencies to the declaration of results. At
each stage we ask what should happen and what does happen in elections.
Towards the end of the chapter, we turn to an assessment of whether
elections in India are free and fair. Here we also examine the role of the
Election Commission in ensuring free and fair elections.
CHAPTER 3
Electoral
Politics
2020-21
35
3.1 WHY ELECTIONS?
government would waive the loans
of farmers and small businessmen.
He promised that this would be the
first action of his government.
The people were unhappy with the
existing government. They were also
attracted by Devi Lal’s promise. So,
when elections were held, they voted
overwhelmingly in favour of Lok Dal
and its allies. Lok Dal and its
partners won 76 out of 90 seats in
the State Assembly. Lok Dal alone
won 60 seats and thus had a clear
majority in the Assembly. The
Congress could win only 5 seats.
Once the election results were
announced, the sitting Chief
Minister resigned. The newly elected
Members of Legislative Assembly
(MLAs) of Lok Dal chose Devi Lal as
their leader. The Governor invited
Devi Lal to be the new Chief
Minister. Three days after the
election results were declared, he
became the Chief Minister. As soon
as he became the Chief Minister, his
Government issued a Government
Order waiving the outstanding loans
of small farmers, agricultural
labourers and small businessmen.
His party ruled the State for four
years. The next elections were held
in 1991. But this time his party did
not win popular support. The
Congress won the election and
formed the government.
Assembly Election in Assembly Election in Assembly Election in Assembly Election in Assembly Election in
H H H H Har ar ar ar ary yy yyana ana ana ana ana
Do most leaders
fulfil their election
promises?
Jagdeep and Navpreet read this story and drew the following conclusions. Can you say which of
these are right or wrong (or if the information given in the story is inadequate to call them right or
wrong):
< Elections can lead to changes in the policy of the government.
< The Governor invited Devi Lal to become the Chief Minister because he was impressed with his
speeches.
< People are unhappy with every ruling party and vote against it in the next election.
< The party that wins the election forms the government.
< This election led to a lot of economic development in Haryana.
< The Congress Chief Minister need not have resigned after his party lost elections.
CHECK
YOUR
PROGRESS
This newspaper report is about the
State assembly election in Haryana
in 1987. The State had been ruled by
a Congress party led government
since 1982. Chaudhary Devi Lal, then
an opposition leader, led a movement
called ‘Nyaya Yudh’ (Struggle for
Justice) and formed a new party, Lok
Dal. His party joined other opposition
parties to form a front against the
Congress in the elections. In the
election campaign, Devi Lal said that
if his party won the elections, his
The time is after midnight. An expectant
crowd sitting for the past five hours in a
chowk of the town is waiting for its leader
to come. The organisers assure and reas-
sure the crowd that he would be here any
moment. The crowd stands up whenever
a passing vehicle comes that way. It
arouses hopes that he has come.
The leader is Mr. Devi Lal, chief of
the Haryana Sangharsh Samiti, who was
to address a meeting in Karnal on Thurs-
day night. The 76-year-old leader, is a
very busy man these days. His day starts
at 8 a.m. and ends after 11 p.m. … he
had already addressed nine election
meetings since morning… been con-
stantly addressing public meetings for
the past 23 months and preparing for this
election.
ELECTORAL POLITICS
2020-21
36 DEMOCRATIC POLITICS
ACTIVITY
Do you know when the last Assembly election
was held in your state? Which other elections
have taken place in your locality in the last five
years? Write down the level of elections (National,
Assembly, Panchayat, etc.), when were they held
and the name and designation (MP , MLA, etc.) of
the persons who got elected from your area.
W W W W Wh h h h hy do w y do w y do w y do w y do we nee e nee e nee e nee e need ele d ele d ele d ele d elec c c c ctions? tions? tions? tions? tions?
Elections take place regularly in
any democracy. There are more than
one hundred countries in the world
in which elections take place to
choose people’s representatives. We
also read that elections are held in
many countries that are not
democratic.
But why do we need elections?
Let us try to imagine a democracy
without elections. A rule of the
people is possible without any
elections if all the people can sit
together everyday and take all the
decisions. But as we have already
seen in Chapter 1, this is not
possible in any large community.
Nor is it possible for everyone to
have the time and knowledge to
take decisions on all matters.
Therefore in most democracies
people rule through their
representatives.
Is there a democratic way of
selecting representatives without
elections? Let us think of a place
where representatives are selected
on the basis of age and experience.
Or a place where they are chosen
on the basis of education or
knowledge. There could be some
difficulty in deciding on who is more
experienced or knowledgable. But let
us say the people can resolve these
difficulties. Clearly, such a place
does not require elections.
But can we call this place a
democracy? How do we find out if
the people like their representatives
or not? How do we ensure that these
representatives rule as per the
wishes of the people? How to make
sure that those who the people don’t
like do not remain their
representatives? This requires a
mechanism by which people can
choose their representatives at
regular intervals and change them
if they wish to do so. This
mechanism is called election.
Therefore, elections are considered
essential in our times for any
representative democracy.
In an election the voters make
many choices:
<They can choose who will make
laws for them.
< They can choose who will form the
government and take major
decisions.
< They can choose the party whose
policies will guide the government
and law making.
W W W W Wha ha ha ha hat mak t mak t mak t mak t makes an ele es an ele es an ele es an ele es an elec c c c ction tion tion tion tion
democr democr democr democr democra a a a atic? tic? tic? tic? tic?
Elections can be held in many ways.
All democratic countries hold
elections. But most non-democratic
countries also hold some kind of
elections. How do we distinguish
democratic elections from any other
election? We have discussed this
question briefly in Chapter 1. We
discussed many examples of
countries where elections are held
but they can’t really be called
democratic elections. Let us recall
what we learnt there and start with
a simple list of the minimum
conditions of a democratic election:
<First, everyone should be able to
choose. This means that everyone
should have one vote and every
vote should have equal value.
We have seen why
democracies need
to have elections.
But why do rulers
in non-democratic
countries need to
hold elections?
2020-21
37
<Second, there should be
something to choose from. Parties
and candidates should be free to
contest elections and should offer
some real choice to the voters.
< Third, the choice should be offered
at regular intervals. Elections must
be held regularly after every few
years.
< Fourth, the candidate preferred by
the people should get elected.
<Fifth, elections should be
conducted in a free and fair
manner where people can choose
as they really wish.
These might look like very simple
and easy conditions. But there are
many countries where these are not
fulfilled. In this chapter we will apply
these conditions to the elections held
in our own country to see if we can
call these democratic elections.
I I I I Is it good t s it good t s it good t s it good t s it good to ha o ha o ha o ha o hav v v v ve political e political e political e political e political
c c c c competition? ompetition? ompetition? ompetition? ompetition?
Elections are thus all about political
competition. This competition takes
various forms. The most obvious form
is the competition among political
parties. At the constituency level, it
takes the form of competition among
several candidates. If there is no
competition, elections will become
pointless.
But is it good to have political
competition? Clearly, an electoral
competition has many demerits. It
creates a sense of disunity and
‘factionalism’ in every locality. You
would have heard of people
complaining of ‘party-politics’ in your
locality. Different political parties and
leaders often level allegations against
one another. Parties and candidates
often use dirty tricks to win elections.
Some people say that this pressure
to win electoral fights does not allow
sensible long-term policies to be
formulated. Some good people who
may wish to serve the country do not
enter this arena. They do not like the
idea of being dragged into unhealthy
competition.
Our Constitution makers were
aware of these problems. Yet they
opted for free competition in
elections as the way to select our
future leaders. They did so because
this system works better in the long
run. In an ideal world all political
leaders know what is good for the
people and are motivated only by a
desire to serve them. Political
competition is not necessary in such
an ideal world. But that is not what
happens in real life. Political leaders
all over the world, like all other
professionals, are motivated by a
desire to advance their political
careers. They want to remain in
power or get power and positions for
themselves.They may wish to serve
the people as well, but it is risky to
depend entirely on their sense of
duty. Besides even when they wish
to serve the people, they may not
know what is required to do so, or
their ideas may not match what the
people really want.
How do we deal with this real life
situation? One way is to try and
improve the knowledge and character
of political leaders. The other and
more realistic way is to set up a
system where political leaders are
rewarded for serving the people and
punished for not doing so. Who
decides this reward or punishment?
The simple answer is: the people.
This is what electoral competition
does. Regular electoral competition
provides incentives to political
parties and leaders. They know that
if they raise issues that people want
to be raised, their popularity and
chances of victory will increase in
the next elections. But if they fail to
satisfy the voters with their work
they will not be able to win again.
Ah! So, elections
are like exams
where politicians
and parties know if
they have passed
or failed. But who
are the examiners?
ELECTORAL POLITICS
2020-21
38 DEMOCRATIC POLITICS
Can we say that Indian elections are
democratic? To answer this question,
let us take a look at how elections are
held in India. Lok Sabha and Vidhan
Sabha (Assembly) elections are held
regularly after every five years. After
five years the term of all the elected
representatives comes to an end. The
Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha stands
‘dissolved’. Elections are held in all
constituencies at the same time,
either on the same day or within a
few days. This is called a general
election. Sometimes election is held
only for one constitutency to fill the
vacancy caused by death or
resignation of a member. This is
called a by-election. In this chapter
we will focus on general elections.
Ele Ele Ele Ele Elec c c c ct t t t tor or or or oral c al c al c al c al constituencies onstituencies onstituencies onstituencies onstituencies
You read about the people of
Haryana electing 90 MLAs. You may
have wondered how they did that.
Did every person in Haryana vote for
all the 90 MLAs? You perhaps know
that this is not the case. In our
country we follow an area based
system of representation. The
country is divided into different
areas for purposes of elections.
These areas are called electoral
constitutencies. The voters who live
in an area elect one representative.
So if a political party is motivated
only by desire to be in power, even
then it will be forced to serve the
people. This is a bit like the way
market works. Even if a shopkeeper
is interested only in his profit, he is
forced to give good service to the
customers. If he does not, the
customer will go to some other shop.
Similarly, political competition may
cause divisions and some ugliness,
but it finally helps to force political
parties and leaders to serve the
people.
3.2 WHAT IS OUR SYSTEM OF ELECTIONS?
Read these two cartoons carefully. Write the message of each of them in
your own words. Have a discussion in class on which of the two is closer
to the reality in your own locality. Draw a cartoon to depict what elections
do to the relationship between voters and political leaders.
r r r r re e e e ea a a a ad d d d d
t t t t the he he he he
c c c c ca a a a ar r r r rt t t t toon oon oon oon oon
Irfan Khan
2020-21
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