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It’s poll season: Let’s get to know India’s electoral system better10 min read

March 2, 2022 7 min read


It’s poll season: Let’s get to know India’s electoral system better10 min read

Reading Time: 7 minutes

It’s exam season, pollen season, Budget season and also the season of something very important! Solve the jigsaw below to know what we mean.

Now that you know what this article is about, let’s dig deeper….

The elections going on currently are state Assembly Elections. This means that the states that are facing elections have to vote for new representatives for their government. We’ll understand more about this as we move forward…

Why do we need elections?

In a democracy like ours, elections take place regularly. There are more than 100 countries in the world in which elections take place to choose people’s representatives. The mechanism by which people can choose their representatives at regular intervals and change them whenever they want to is called an election.

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.

What makes an election democratic?

For a democratic election to happen, the following points should be noted:

1. Everyone should be able to choose their own representative.

2. Parties and candidates should be free to contest elections and should offer some real choice to the voters.

3. Elections must be held regularly after every few years.

4. The candidate preferred by the people should get elected.

5. Elections should be conducted in a free and fair manner where people can choose as they really wish.

Owliver’s Obscure Observations

Did you know that before an election is held, a set of guidelines come into effect for the politicians and parties to follow? This is called the ‘model code of conduct’. It is a set of guidelines issued by the Election Commission for conduct of political parties and candidates during elections, mainly with respect to speeches, polling day, polling booths, portfolios, election manifestos, processions and general conduct.

The types of elections in India

Elections in India are for:

  • Members of the Parliament in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha,
  • Members of State Legislative Assemblies (includes legislative assemblies of three union territories – Delhi, Puducherry and Jammu and Kashmir),
  • Members of State Legislative Councils,
  • Members of local governance bodies (Municipal bodies and Panchayats)

Owliver’s Obscure Observations

What happens when an elected representative passes away, resigns or is disqualified? In such cases, a by-election is held to find a suitable replacement.

1. The first type of election is the Lok Sabha election.

These are conducted every 5 years and the members of this house are directly elected by the citizens of India. The Lok Sabha comprises 552 members. 

Can you identify this building? Photo: Wikipedia
The different assembly constituencies in the state of UP.
Photo: Maps of India

In India, each state or UT is divided into parliamentary constituencies, according to their population. There are 545 parliamentary constituencies in the country and after deducting the constituency of the Anglo-Indian community, there are 543 constituencies. Voting is then conducted for these 543 constituencies. The allocation of the constituency in a different area of a state is done according to the population of that area. For example, Delhi has 7 Lok Sabha seats and Uttar Pradesh has 80 seats due to the fact that it has the largest population. 

The parties put their representatives in each area to fight an election, and after voting the party whoever succeeds in securing the higher seat forms the government. The securing of a higher number of seats means that the party must secure the majority of seats i.e., more than 50 % of the total of 543 seats. The Lok Sabha members who are in majority cast their vote for the post of Prime Minister, and the winning party’s leader is then appointed as Prime Minister. 

Thus, when we vote in a Lok Sabha general election we elect a Member of Parliament (MP) from each Parliamentary Constituency. These MPs are nominated by the President to form the Lok Sabha.

2. The second election type in India is the state Legislative Assembly election or the Vidhan Sabha election.

Each Parliamentary Constituency consists of a few assembly constituencies. All the constituencies put together in a state form the Legislative Assembly of the state or the Vidhan Sabha. Under this type of election, the people of the particular state directly elect the member of the Vidhan Sabha who are known as the MLAs, or Members of Legislative Assembly and who will form the state government. Thus, each state is governed by its own Legislative Assembly. From these constituencies or Members of Legislative Assembly are elected in the state assembly. 

People gather to cast their vote in the ongoing UP elections. Photo: PTI

Like Lok Sabha, the seats of the Legislative Assembly are also fixed. The candidates of various parties fight an election for MLA seats of different areas in a particular state. The election of MLA also takes place every 5 years. The difference is that the election date is different for each state. 

The party that wins by majority — secures more than 50% of seats — form its government in that state. The MLAs in the majority then appoint their leader as the Chief Minister.

3. The third election type in India is the Rajya Sabha election.

This election operates differently. Here, the role of MLA is important, as it’s them who choose the members of this house on the behalf of the public. 

This house has a capacity of 250 members, out of which 238 are elected by MLAs from different states and Union Territories and the remaining 12 are elected directly by the President.

This is what the inside of the Parliament looks like. Here, elected representatives gather to make important decisions. Photo: Wikipedia

The tenure of the members of this house is 6 years. For the election of Rajya Sabha members, the MLAs or the Vidhan Sabha members chose the member of Rajya Sabha through the single transferable vote system. 

Have you got a sense of the voting system in the country? If yes, keep scrolling down. If not, read through the above paragraphs carefully.

Now, let’s back to these current elections.

Which states are going to polls?

These women from Manipur have come forward to vote. Photo: NDTV

It was announced by the Election Comission that assembly elections in five states — Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur — will be completed in seven phases, with UP being the first to go to polls on February 10.

Addressing a press conference, Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra said the voting in UP will take place in seven phases starting from February 10, voting in Manipur will take place in two phases starting from February 27, while Punjab, Uttarakhand and Goa elections will be conducted in a single phase on February 14. Results of all the assembly polls will be declared on March 10.

Owliver’s Obscure Observations

Voting in India is conducted by electronic voting machines or EVM, which was first introduced in 1982. To check for foul play, vehicles transporting the EVMs will be fitted with GPS devices to monitor their movements.

What’s important about these elections?

The pandemic turned our lives upside-down. So, as the biggest set of polls since the pandemic, the party that is in power at the Centre — the BJP — will have to prove that it has done a good job in handling Covid-19 and the economy, which suffered during the pandemic.

These elections are also a preview of sorts of what’s to come — the nationwide parliamentary elections that will happen in 2024. The way these elections go will say a lot about what we can expect in 2024.

Supporters of the BJP at a political rally in UP. Photo: AFP

Why, you may ask? Uttar Pradesh is India’s largest state and sends by far the most legislators to parliament. A good showing there will help decide which party will come to power in the general elections.

The results will be announced on March 10 for all these states, so we will just have to wait and watch.

Fact check: Some interesting facts about Indian elections:

1. There is only one authorized company — Mysore Paints and Varnishes Private Limited — which makes the indelible ink used to mark the finger after voting.
2. Electronic voting machines save 10,000 tones of paper, but have been subject to a lot of criticism.
3. A 6-volt alkaline battery is used to run the Electronic Voting Machines, it can be used in areas with no power connections.

After reading this, do you think you will keep track of the current elections?

Sources: Indian Express, Al Jazeera, India Today, NDTV

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