Elections have played a major role in the working of India’s democracy. Elections and representation are two very important processes in democracy. We know that people’s representatives are selected through elections. Elections help to bring a change in power through peaceful means. Different political parties get an opportunity to rule. Policies of the government and life of society also changes. We expect that the representatives we elect should be efficient, honest, and trustworthy and that they should respect the opinion of people. The electoral process should also be free, fair and reliable. To ensure that, the Constitution of India has made provision for an independent Election Commission to administer the election process in India.
The Election Commission of India and the State level State Election Commissions conduct all important elections in our country. The entire process of elections from declaring the date of elections to the declaration of results is carried out under the direction and control of Election Commission. The election process is an inseparable component of a comprehensive democratic process.
In this chapter we will understand the structure, functions and role of the Election Commission. We will also discuss the reforms required to be made in the electoral process.
In India, the Election Commission is central to the process of elections. Art. 324 of the Indian Constitution has established this autonomous body which consists of one Chief Election Commissioner and two other commissioners.
The President appoints the election commissioners. The Chief Election Commissioner cannot be removed from his post easily or on account of any political reasons. This is necessary so as to preserve the independence of election commission.
There is a separate provision made for the expenses of Election Commission. The Election Commission does not have a separate staff. Government officers, teachers and other employees help the Election Commission to execute the process of elections.
Functions of Election Commission
- Preparing the voters list : Every Indian citizen who has completed 18 years of age has a right to vote. To exercise the right to vote, citizen’s name must be in the voters list. It is the responsibility of the Election Commission to prepare the list of eligible voters, update the existing voter’s list and include the names of new voters. The Election Commission has the authority to issue identity cards to the voters.
- Decide the timetable and the programme of elections : The conduct of elections is entirely the responsibility of the Election Commission. The Election Commission decides when to conduct elections and in how many stages to hold elections in every state.
- Scrutiny of the applications of candidates : After the election dates are declared, every political party selects the candidates to contest elections. Some candidates contest the elections independently without the support of any political party. Candidates of political parties as well as independent candidates have to fill the applications which include the information about their own self. The Election Commission scrutinises all the applications and allows the eligible candidates to contest the elections.
- Give recognition to political parties : We have a multiparty system in our country. New parties continue to be formed. Split in the parties results in the formation of new parties. All political parties are required to be recognised by the Election Commission. Election Commission also has a right to derecognise any political party. The Election Commission also allots election symbols to the political parties.
- To resolve any disputes relating to elections : The Election Commission has the responsibility of resolving any disputes that may arise regarding elections. Accordingly, to declare any candidate as disqualified or conduct re-election in a particular constituency is the responsibility of the Election Commission.
Restructuring of the Constituency : The total number of members in Loksabha is 543. How are these members elected? Every member represents one constituency. It means there are 543 constituencies of Loksabha. Creating constituencies is the responsibility of the Delimitation Commission. The Delimitation Commission does not succumb to any pressure while restructuring the constituencies.
What is a code of conduct?
To ensure free and fair elections in India, the Election Commission has adopted several measures. The Code of Conduct is one of the measures adopted by the Election Commission. In the last few decades, the Election Commission has used its powers to control malpractices during elections. The Code of Conduct explains the rules that are to be followed by the Government, political parties and voters before elections and during elections. Even the Government cannot violate these rules. Due to the strict observance of the code of conduct in the last few elections, the common voters have become confident.
Challenges in conducting free and fair elections : If we take into account the size of our country and the number of voters, conducting elections becomes a truly challenging task. The Election Commission has to work in accordance with the law while dealing with these challenges. Some of the challenges are mentioned below :
- Misuse of money takes place to a great extent during elections. The Election Commission has to take several measures to stop such a misuse of money.
- Many political parties give election tickets to the candidates with criminal background. This results not only in criminalisation of politics but the Election Commission also faces problems in ensuring that elections are conducted in free environment.
- Another major challenge is violence during elections. The extent of violence has increased significantly during elections. All political parties should help The Election Commission to control this violence.
- To retain a continuing influence on politics, leaders give election tickets to their own relatives. This practice creates a family monopoly in politics.
Electoral reforms : Elections is a continuous process. The future of democracy depends on elections. Electoral process becomes reliable if election process gets improved. Some reforms are suggested below. What will be its effects according to you?
- To increase participation of women in politics, the political parties should give 50% candidature to women candidates and try to ensure that they get elected.
- Political parties should not give candidature to candidates having criminal background. They should strictly follow the decision given by courts in this respect.
- The Government should take care of election expenses. To ensure that parties will not make misuse of money and mismanagement of money during elections can be stopped.
- Representation of the Peoples Act should be amended so that candidates having criminal background would not be able to participate in elections.
In this chapter we studied the electoral process from various angles. In the next chapter we will study the political parties in India.