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1. Representative Democracy:

  • In a representative democracy, citizens elect representatives who make decisions on their behalf.
  • Direct participation in day-to-day decision-making is not practical for large populations, leading to the need for elected representatives.
  • The ancient Greek city-states were examples of direct democracy, where citizens participated directly in decision-making.

2. Direct vs. Indirect Democracy:

  • Direct democracy involves citizens directly participating in decision-making.
  • Indirect democracy, on the other hand, relies on elected representatives to make decisions on behalf of the citizens.
  • Local governments, like gram sabhas in India, are considered examples of direct democracy on a smaller scale.

3. Role of Elections in Democracy:

  • Elections are a fundamental aspect of representative democracy.
  • Citizens choose their representatives through a process known as elections.
  • Elected representatives actively participate in governing and administering the country.
  • Elections serve as a mechanism for citizens to indirectly influence decision-making.

4. Election System in India:

  • In India, the election system plays a crucial role in shaping the government.
  • The example of the 1984 Lok Sabha elections is used to illustrate the impact of the election system.
  • The Congress party won a significant majority of seats (80%) with only 48% of the votes, showcasing the First Past the Post (FPTP) system in action.

5. First Past the Post (FPTP) System:

  • Under FPTP, the country is divided into constituencies, each electing one representative.
  • The candidate with the highest number of votes in a constituency wins, irrespective of whether they have a majority.
  • The winning candidate need not secure more than 50% of the votes.
  • This system is also known as the Plurality System.

6. Impact of FPTP System:

  • The example of the Congress party winning a majority of seats with less than a majority of votes demonstrates the FPTP system's outcomes.
  • A winning candidate may secure less than 50% of the votes if there are multiple candidates in a constituency.
  • Votes for losing candidates are considered "wasted" as they do not contribute to winning seats.

7. Election Results Discrepancies:

  • Discrepancies between the percentage of votes and the percentage of seats won can occur due to the FPTP system.
  • The example of the BJP getting 7.4% of votes but less than 1% of seats highlights such discrepancies.

8. Constitutional Mandate:

  • The FPTP system is the method of election prescribed by the Indian Constitution.
  • It determines the manner in which representatives are elected to the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies.
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What is the purpose of the reservation of constituencies in the Indian electoral system?
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Proportional Representation

In Israel, the Proportional Representation (PR) system is employed, where each party is allotted seats in proportion to its share of votes. Parties fill their seats based on a predetermined preference list. PR ensures that a party gets the same proportion of seats as its share of votes.

Two variations of PR exist:

  • In some countries like Israel, the entire country is treated as one constituency, and seats are allocated nationally.
  • In others, like Argentina and Portugal, the country is divided into several multi-member constituencies, and each party prepares a list for each constituency.

Proportional Representation in India:

  • India has adopted PR on a limited scale for indirect elections.
  • The Constitution prescribes a complex variant of PR for the election of the President, Vice President, and for Rajya Sabha and Vidhan Parishads.

Single Transferable Vote System (STV) in Rajya Sabha Elections:

  • The Single Transferable Vote System (STV) is a variant of PR used in Rajya Sabha elections.
  • Every state has a specific quota of seats, elected by the state legislative assemblies.
  • Voters, who are the MLAs in the state, rank candidates based on preference.
  • To win, a candidate must secure a minimum quota of votes, calculated using a specific formula.
  • The counting involves transferring votes from eliminated candidates to those with second preferences until the required candidates are elected.

Why India Adopted the First Past the Post (FPTP) System:

  • The complexity of PR systems, as seen in Rajya Sabha elections, may work well in small countries but could be challenging in a diverse and large country like India.
  • The simplicity of the FPTP system contributed to its popularity and success. It is easily understood even by voters with no specialized knowledge.
  • The FPTP system provides a clear choice for voters, who can either support a candidate or a party.
  • Unlike PR systems, FPTP ensures that voters have a representative accountable for their locality, fostering a stronger connection.
  • The FPTP system is believed to be more suitable for a parliamentary system, ensuring the executive has a majority in the legislature.
  • FPTP often results in a two-party system, encouraging different social groups to collaborate, unlike PR systems that might lead to community-specific parties.

Experience of FPTP in India:

  • The FPTP system has proven simple and familiar to ordinary voters.
  • It has helped larger parties win clear majorities at the national and state levels.
  • The system discourages parties focused on a single caste or community.
  • In India, after independence, a one-party dominance initially existed, followed by the emergence of multiparty coalitions post-1989.
  • The rise of coalitions has allowed new and smaller parties to enter electoral competition despite the FPTP system, creating a distinctive feature in India's party system.
[Intext Question]


  1. Introduction to the FPTP Election System:

    • FPTP System: The First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) electoral system is a method in which the candidate with the highest number of votes in a constituency is declared the winner. This system can sometimes disadvantage smaller social groups.

    • Concerns in the Indian Context: In the Indian social context, historical issues of caste-based discrimination make the FPTP system potentially disadvantageous for smaller and oppressed social groups. It may result in dominant social groups winning consistently while leaving the marginalized groups unrepresented.

  2. Historical Context: Separate Electorates and Reserved Constituencies:

    • Separate Electorates: Before independence, the British government introduced a system of "separate electorates," where only voters belonging to a particular community were eligible to vote for a representative from that community.

    • Reserved Constituencies: The Constituent Assembly debated the effectiveness of separate electorates and decided to adopt the system of reserved constituencies. In this system, all voters in a constituency can vote, but candidates must belong to a specific community or social section for which the seat is reserved.

  3. Constitutional Provision for Reserved Seats:

    • Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes: The Constitution provides for the reservation of seats in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST). Initially, this provision was for ten years, but through constitutional amendments, it has been extended up to 2010, with the possibility of further extension.

    • Proportional Representation: The number of seats reserved for SCs and STs is in proportion to their share in the population of India. Currently, out of 543 elected seats in the Lok Sabha, 79 are reserved for Scheduled Castes, and 41 are reserved for Scheduled Tribes.

  4. Decision on Reserved Constituencies:

    • Delimitation Commission: The decision on which constituency to reserve is made by an independent body called the Delimitation Commission. Appointed by the President of India, this commission works in collaboration with the Election Commission of India.

    • Criteria for Reservation: The Delimitation Commission fixes a quota of constituencies to be reserved in each state based on the proportion of SC or ST population. It then looks at the composition of population in each constituency, reserving those with the highest proportion of Scheduled Tribe population for STs. In the case of Scheduled Castes, constituencies with higher proportions are chosen, with an effort to spread them across different regions of the state.

  5. Potential for Rotation:

    • Rotating Reserved Constituencies: The text mentions that these reserved constituencies can be rotated each time the Delimitation exercise is undertaken, ensuring a fair distribution over time.
  6. Lack of Reservation for Other Disadvantaged Groups:

    • Demand for Women's Reservation: While the Constitution provides reservation for SCs and STs, there is a growing demand for the reservation of seats in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies for women. Despite amendments being proposed in Parliament, no such reservation has been implemented yet.

    • Existing Reservation for Women: The text notes that reservation for women exists in rural and urban local bodies, but extending it to the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabhas would require a constitutional amendment.

The document NCERT Summary: Elections & Democracy - 1 | Indian Polity for UPSC CSE is a part of the UPSC Course Indian Polity for UPSC CSE.
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FAQs on NCERT Summary: Elections & Democracy - 1 - Indian Polity for UPSC CSE

1. What is proportional representation?
Proportional representation is a voting system in which seats in a legislative body are allocated to political parties based on the proportion of votes they receive. This means that the number of seats a party gets is proportional to the number of votes it receives.
2. How does proportional representation work?
In a proportional representation system, political parties submit lists of candidates to voters. Voters then cast their votes for a party, rather than for individual candidates. The seats in the legislative body are then allocated to parties based on the proportion of votes they receive. This ensures that the distribution of seats reflects the overall support for each party.
3. What are the advantages of proportional representation?
Proportional representation has several advantages. Firstly, it ensures that the composition of the legislative body reflects the diversity of political opinions in society. It also allows for smaller parties to be represented, giving a voice to minority groups. Additionally, proportional representation tends to promote cooperation among political parties, as they often need to form coalitions to govern.
4. What are the drawbacks of proportional representation?
One of the drawbacks of proportional representation is that it can lead to a fragmented political landscape, with many small parties represented. This can make it difficult to form stable governments and can result in frequent coalition negotiations. Another drawback is that proportional representation can weaken the link between voters and individual representatives, as voters do not directly choose their representatives.
5. Which countries use proportional representation?
Several countries around the world use proportional representation as their electoral system. Some examples include Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and South Africa. Additionally, many international organizations, such as the European Parliament, also use proportional representation for their elections.
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