Polity : Elections and Voting system in India

  • Indian Elections are conducted according to the constitutional provisions, supplemented by laws made by Parliament. The major laws are Representation of the People Act, 1950, which mainly deals with the preparation and revision of electoral rolls, the Representation of the People Act, 1951 which deals, in detail, with all aspects of conduct of elections and post election disputes. 
  • The Supreme Court of India has held that where the enacted laws are silent or make insufficient provision to deal with a given situation in the conduct of elections, the Election Commission has the residuary powers under the Constitution to act in an appropriate manner. 
  • General Elections in India is considered as the largest management event in the world.
  • The size and shape of the parliamentary constituencies are determined by an independent Delimitation Commission, which aims to create constituencies which have roughly the same population, subject to geographical considerations and the boundaries of the states and administrative areas. 
  • Elections to the Lok Sabha are carried out using a first-past-the-post electoral system. The electors can cast one vote each for a candidate, the winner being the candidate who gets the maximum votes. 
  • Rajya Sabha members are elected by each state Vidhan Sabha using the single transferable vote system. Unlike most federal systems, the number of members returned by each state is roughly in proportion to their population. At present there are 233 members of the Rajya Sabha elected by the Vidhan Sabhas, and there are also twelve members nominated by the President as representatives of literature, science, art and social services. Rajya Sabha members can serve for six years, and elections are staggered, with one third of the assembly being elected every 2 years. 
  • The president can nominate 2 members of the Lok Sabha if it is felt that the representation of the Anglo-Indian community is inadequate, and 12 members of the Rajya Sabha, to represent literature, science, art and the social services.
  • Constitution gives the states and union territories significant control over their own government. The Vidhan Sabhas (legislative assemblies) are directly elected bodies set up to carrying out the administration of the government in the 28 States of India. In some states there is a bicameral organisation of legislatures, with both an upper and Lower House. Two of the seven Union Territories viz., the National Capital Territory of Delhi and Pondicherry, have also legislative assemblies. The largest Vidhan Sabha is for Uttar Pradesh, with 403 members; the smallest Pondicherry, with 30 members. 
  • The President is elected by the elected members of the Vidhan Sabhas, Lok Sabha, and Rajya Sabha, and serves for a period of 5 years (although they can stand for re-election). A formula is used to allocate votes so there is a balance between the population of each state and the number of votes assembly members from a state can cast, and to give an equal balance between State Assembly members and National Parliament members. If no candidate receives a majority of votes there is a system by which losing candidates are eliminated from the contest and votes for them transferred to other candidates, until one gain a majority (Single transferable vote). The Vice President is elected by a direct vote of all members elected and nominated, of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. 
  • The democratic system in India is based on the principle of universal adult suffrage; that any citizen over the age of 18 can vote in an election (before 1989 the age limit was 21). The right to vote is irrespective of caste, creed, religion or gender. Those who are deemed unsound of mind, and people convicted of certain criminal offences are not allowed to vote. 
  • Any Indian citizen who is registered as a voter and is over 25 years of age is allowed to contest elections to the Lok Sabha or State Legislative Assemblies. For the Rajya Sabha the age limit is 30 years. Every candidate has to make a deposit of Rs. 10,000/- for Lok Sabha election and 5,000/- for Rajya Sabha or Vidhan Sabha elections, except for candidates from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes who pay half of these amounts. The deposit is returned if the candidate receives more than one-sixth of the total number of valid votes polled in the constituency. Nominations must be supported at least by one registered elector of the constituency, in the case of a candidate sponsored by a registered Party and by ten registered electors from the constituency in the case of other candidates. There are currently 79 seats reserved for the scheduled castes and 41 reserved for the scheduled tribes in the Lok Sabha.