India is a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. Democracy runs like a golden thread in the social, economic and political fabric woven by the Constitution given by ‘We, the People of India’ unto ourselves. The concept of democracy as visualised by the Constitution pre-supposes the representation of the people in Parliament and State legislatures by the method of election. The Supreme Court has held that democracy is one of the inalienable basic features of the Constitution of India and forms part of its basic structure. The Constitution of India adopted a Parliamentary form of government. Parliament consists of the President of India and the two Houses — Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. India, being a Union of states, has separate state legislatures for each state. State legislatures consist of the Governor and two Houses — Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly — in seven states, namely, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, and of the Governor and the state Legislative Assembly in the remaining 22 states. Apart from the above, two out of the seven Union Territories, namely, National Capital Territory of Delhi and Puducherry, also have their Legislative Assemblies.
CONSTITUENCIES & RESERVATION OF SEATS
The country has been divided into 543 Parliamentary Constituencies, each of which returns one MP to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Parliament. The Federal Democratic Republic of India has thirty six constituent units. All the twenty nine States and two of the seven Union Territories have their own assemblies - Vidhan Sabhas. The thirty one Assemblies have 4120 Constituencies.
STATICS AT A GLANCE
|Total Population||1.2 billion|
|Total Area||3.3 million km2|
|Number of Electors||834,082,814 (compared to 173,212,343 in1951-52)|
|Total No. of Polling Stations||9,27,553|
|Total No. of Assembly Constituencies at Present||4,120|
|Rajya Sabha||Not more than 250 members (243 at present); 12 members are nominated by the President under Article 80 of the Constitution|
|Lok Sabha||543 members plus 2 members of the Anglo-Indian community, nominated by the President under Article 331 of the Constitution|
|Political Parties||Total||Participated in 2014 polls|
|State Recognised Parties||47||39|
|Registered Unrecognised Parties||1593||419|
|Total No. of Political Parties||1646||464|
|Total No. of Candidates||8251|
THE 2014 LOK SABHA ELECTIONS
|Highest Ever Turnout of Voters||66.44% (against 58.19% in 2009) 55.41 crore voters (against 41.72 crore in 2009)|
|Percentage Increase (2014 against 2009)||32.71%|
|Total Male Turnout||67.00% (Postal Ballots not included)|
|Total Female Turnout||65.54% (Postal Ballots not included)|
HIGHLIGHTS – LOK SABHA, 2014
No. of Constituencies
|Type of Constituencies||Gen||SC||ST||Total|
|No. of Constituencies||412||81||47||543|
No. of Contestants
|No. of Contestants in a Constituency||1||2||3||4||5||6-10||11-15||Above 15|
|No. of Such Constituencies||0||1||3||3||3||103||241||189|
|Total Contestants in Election Fray||8251|
|Average Contestants per Constituency||15|
|Minimum Contestants in a Constituency||2|
|Maximum Contestants in a Constituency||42|
|No. of Electors (Including Service Electors)||437035372||397018915||28527||834082814|
|No. of General Electors who Voted at Polling Stations||292826408||260192272||1968||553020648|
No. of Service Electors
|No. of Postal Ballot received in time and counted||1154607|
|Poll % (Including Postal Ballot)||66.14|
No. of Valid Votes
|Valid Votes Polled on EVM||546879221|
|Valid Postal Votes||920783|
Total Nota Votes
|‘NOTA” Votes on EVM||5994418|
|‘NOTA’ Votes on Postal Ballot||8524|
No. of Votes Rejected
|Votes not Retrieved on EVM||143573|
|Votes Rejected due to other Reasons (At Polling Station)||3436|
|Proxy Votes by Service Electors||173|
|No. of Polling Stations||927553|
|Average No. of Electors per Polling Station||899|
|No. of Re-Polls Held||At 301 Polling Stations|
PERFORMANCE OF CONTESTING CANDIDATES
|No. of Contestants||7577||668||6||8251|
PERFORMANCE OF NATIONAL PARTIES
|Candidates||Votes Secured by Party||% of votes secured|
|Contested||Won||DF||Over total electors||
Over total valid
Bharatiya Janata Party
Bahujan Samaj Party
Communist Party of India
Communist Party of India (Marxist)
|93 464||9 44||50 178||17988955 106935942||2.16 12.82||3.28 19.52|
Nationalist Congress Party
TOTAL ELECTORS IN THE COUNTRY (INCLUDING SERVICE - ELECTORS) : 834082814
VALID VOTES POLLED IN THE COUNTRY (INCLUDING SERVICE-VOTES) : 5478000
HOW THE CONSTITUENCY BOUNDARIES ARE DRAWN UP
Delimitation is the redrawing of the boundaries of parliamentary or assembly constituencies to make sure that there are, as nearly as practicable, the same number of people in each constituency. Boundaries are meant to be readjusted after the ten-yearly census to reflect changes in population, for which Parliament by law establishes an independent Delimitation Commission, made up of the Chief Election Commissioner and two judges or ex-judges from the Supreme Court or High Court. However, under a constitutional amendment of 1976, delimitation was suspended until after the census of 2001, so that states' family-planning programmes would not affect their political representation in the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabhas. This led to a few discrepancies in the size of constituencies.
The rationale underlying such embargo was that some of the states which were implementing the population control measures more vigorously felt that they might lose some representation in the Lok Sabha and state Legislative Assemblies on the basis of 1981 and 1991 population figures vis-à-vis those states which were not so effective in population control. However, the above embargo, with the passage of time, resulted in wide disparities in the electorates of almost all Parliamentary and Assembly constituencies, affecting the principle of ‘one man, one vote, one value’. Therefore, by a further amendment to the Constitution by 84th amendment in 2001, Parliament found a via media. It was provided that the territorial extent of all Parliamentary and Assembly constituencies may be re-adjusted on the basis of the 1991 census, but the allocation of seats to the states in the Lok Sabha and the total number of seats in the state Legislative Assemblies shall remain unchanged until the first census to be undertaken after the year 2026, so as to protect the interests of the aforementioned states controlling the population more effectively. By another subsequent 87th amendment to the Constitution in 2003, Parliament decided that the extent of Parliamentary and Assembly constituencies may be readjusted on the basis of the 2001 census instead of the 1991 census. The reservation of seats for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in the said Houses was also decided to be readjusted on the basis of the 2001 census. Pursuant to the above constitutional amendments, a three member Delimitation Commission headed by Justice Kuldip Singh, a retired Judge of the Supreme Court, was set up in July 2002 under the provisions of the Delimitation Act, 2002. The Chief Election Commissioner or one of the Election Commissioners nominated by the former was one of the members of the Delimitation Commission. The Delimitation Commission re-adjusted the territorial extent of Parliamentary and Assembly constituencies in all states (except the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Nagaland, where the delimitation process was deferred by an amendment to the Delimitation Act in 2008). By the same amendment to the said Act in 2008, the Delimitation Order made by the Delimitation Commission in relation the state of Jharkhand was also rendered inoperative. (The Delimitation Act 2002 was not extended to the state of Jammu and Kashmir and, consequently, there was no delimitation of constituencies in that state on the basis of the 2001 census). All the orders passed by the Delimitation Commission were made effective, by a Presidential order under Articles 82 and 170, from February 19, 2008 in all states, except the states of Meghalaya and Tripura, where these orders were made effective from March 20, 2008. Accordingly, all elections held after February 19, 2008 to the Lok Sabha and state Legislative Assemblies, including the last General Election to the Lok Sabha in 2009, have been held on the basis of the Parliamentary and Assembly constituencies as re-adjusted by the Delimitation Commission on the basis of the 2001 census.
RESERVATION OF SEATS
The Constitution puts a limit on the size of the Lok Sabha at 550 elected members, apart from two members who can be nominated by the President to represent the Anglo-Indian community. There are also provisions to ensure the representation of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes with reserved constituencies, where only candidates from these communities can stand for election. A legislation to reserve one third of the seats reserved for female candidates was introduced in the Lok Sabha in early 1999. Before the bill could be considered and passed by the Parliament, the Lower House was dissolved.
SYSTEM OF ELECTION
Elections to the Lok Sabha and each Vidhan Sabha are carried out using a first-past-the-post electoral system. For each constituency, the electors can cast their vote for a single candidate (of their choice), the winner being the candidate who gets the most votes.
The Parliament of the Union consists of the President, the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and the Rajya Sabha (The Council of States).
RAJYA SABHA - THE COUNCIL OF STATES
The members of the Rajya Sabha are elected indirectly, rather than by the citizens at large. 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 from amongst eminent personalities in the field of literature, science, art and social services. Rajya Sabha members can serve for six years, and elections are staggered, with one third of the council being elected every 2 years.
LOK SABHA - HOUSE OF THE PEOPLE
The President of India is the head of the state appoints the Prime Minister, to had the council of Ministers, which runs the government, according to the political composition of the Lok Sabha. Although the government is headed by a Prime Minister, the Cabinet is the central decision making body of the government. Members of more than one party can make up a government, and although the governing parties may be a minority in Lok Sabha, they can only govern as long as they have the confidence of a majority of MPs, the members of the Lok Sabha. The Lok Sabha is the main legislative body, along with the Rajya Sabha. The members of Lok Sabha elected directly by the adult citizens of India from single member territorial Parliamentary Constituencies under the first past,- the – posts’ system. At present there are 543 direct elected members of Lok Sabha apart from two members nominated by the President to represent Anglo Indian Community.
India is a federal country, and the 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 carry out the administration of the government in the 29 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 assemblies range in size, according to population. The largest Vidhan Sabha is for Uttar Pradesh, with 403 members; the smallest for Puducherry, with 30 members. Elections to the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of the Parliament, Vidhan Pahshads, Upper Houses of the State Legislatures (existing only in a few states) and offices of the President and Vice-President are, however, conducted on the basis of proportional representation through a single transferable vote system.
PRESIDENT AND VICE-PRESIDENT
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. A formula, linked to the population of state, determines the value of vote for each elected member of Parliament- both of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha and is determined by a formula linked to the total value of votes of all the members of all the legislative assemblies. 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 gains a majority. The Vice-President is elected by a direct vote of all members, elected and nominated, of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. A successful candidate for the office of the President or the Vice-President is eligible for re-election.
|Name of President||Period|
|Dr. Rajendra Prasad||26-Jan-1950 to 13-May-1962|
|Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan||13-May-1962 to 13-May-1967|
|Dr. Zakir Hussain||13-May-1967 to 3-May-1969|
|Varahagiri Venkata Giri||3-May-1969 to 20-Jul-1969|
|Muhammad Hidayatullah||20-Jul-1969 to 24-Aug-1969|
|Varahagiri Venkata Giri||24-Aug-1969 to 24-Aug-1974|
|Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed||24-Aug-1974 to 11-Feb-1977|
|Basappa Danappa Jatti||11-Feb-1977 to 25-Jul-1977|
|Neelam Sanjiva Reddy||25-Jul-1977 to 25-Jul-1982|
|Giani Zail Singh||25-Jul-1982 to 25-Jul-1987|
|Ramaswamy Venkataraman||25-Jul-1987 to 25-Jul-1992|
|Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma||25-Jul-1992 to 25-Jul-1997|
|Kocheril Raman Narayanan||25-Jul-1997 to 25-Jul-2002|
|Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam||25-Jul-2002 to 25-Jul-2007|
|Pratibha Patil||25-Jul-2007 to 25-Jul-2012|
|Pranab Mukherjee||25-Jul-2012 to 25-Jul-2017|
|Ram Nath Kovind||25-Jul-2017 to Till now|
|Name of Vice President||Period|
|Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan||13-May-52 to 12-May-62|
|Dr. Zakir Hussain||13-May-62 to 12-May-67|
|Sh. Varahagiri Venkata Giri||13-May-67 to 3-May-69|
|Gopal Swarup Pathak||31-Aug-69 to 30-Aug-74|
|Basappa Danappa Jatti||31-Aug-74 to 30-Aug-79|
|Justice Muhammad Hidayatullah||31-Aug-79 to 30-Aug-84|
|Ramaswamy Venkataraman||31-Aug-84 to 24-Jul-87|
|Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma||3-Sep-87 to 24-Jul-92|
|Kocheril Raman Narayanan||21-Aug-92 to 24-Jul-97|
|Krishan Kant||21-Aug-97 to 27-Jul-02|
|Bhairon Singh Shekhawat||19-Aug-02 to 21-Jul-07|
|Mohammad Hamid Ansari||11-Aug-07 11-Aug-17|
|Venkaiah Naidu||11-Aug-17 Till now|
INDEPENDENT ELECTION COMMISSION
The Election Commission of India is an independent Constitutional Authority since 25th January, 1950. The Constitution provides for Chief Election Commissioner and one or more Election Commissioners to be appointed. The Commission consisted of Chief Election Commissioner till 1989, when for the first time two Election Commissioners were appointed. Currently, the Commission has a Chief Election Commissioner and two Commissioners. Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioners enjoy the status of a Judge of the Supreme Court of India. The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from office only by Parliamentary impeachment. The Election Commission is responsible for the conduct of elections to parliament and state legislatures and to the offices of the President and Vice-President. The Election Commission prepares, maintains and periodically updates the Electoral Rolls, which show who is entitled to vote, supervises the nomination of candidates, registers political parties, monitors the election campaign, including the funding and exponential by candidates. It also facilitates the coverage of the election process by the media, organises the polling booths where voting takes place, and looks after the counting of votes and the declaration of results. All this is done to ensure that elections can take place in an orderly and fair manner. The Commission decides most matters by consensus but in case of any dissension, the majority view prevails. The Commission has its headquarters in New Delhi, with a Secretariat of some 350 staff members. At the state level, a Chief Electoral Officer with a core staff of varying numbers, is available on a full time basis. At the district and constituency level, officers and staff of the civil administration double up as election officials. During actual conduct of elections, a vast number of additional staff are temporarily drafted for about two weeks. They function mainly as polling and counting officials.
WHO CAN VOTE?
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. There has been a general increase in the number of people voting in Indian election. In 1996, 57.4% of the electorate voted. This increased to 66 % in the General Election held in 2014. Women voted in good numbers and almost in equal proportion as men.
THE ELECTORAL ROLL
The electoral roll of a constituency is a list of all those people in that constituency who are registered to vote in the elections. Only those people whose names are there in the electoral rolls are allowed to vote as ‘electors’. The electoral roll is normally revised every year to add the names of those who are not less than 18 on a qualifying date years as on the first day of January of that year, or have moved into the constituency, and to remove the names of those who have died or moved out of the constituency. The updating of electoral rolls is a continuous process, which is interrupted only at the time of the elections during the period from after the last date of filing nominations till the completion of the elections. The administrative machinery involved in the preparation, maintenance and revision of the electoral rolls has the ECI at the top of the hierarchy. According to Section 13B of the Representation of the People Act, 1950, the electoral roll for each constituency in a State/UT is to be prepared and revised by an Electoral Registration Officer (ERO). At the bottom of the hierarchy, Booth Level Officers (BLOs) and supervisors are also appointed. Each BLO has one or two polling stations under his/her jurisdiction. During the revision of the electoral rolls, BLOs may be assigned the tasks of enumeration, the verification of rolls and forms, and the collection of forms and photographs from the electors for Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC) and photo roll maximisation. BLOs hand over the forms thus collected to the designated officers and EROs for further action. During the time when continuous revision and updating is going on, BLOs may be used for the identification of dead and shifted voters on specified dates prescribed for the purpose by the ECI (one week in each half of a year). In an election year, a BLO’s task begins with the publication of the draft rolls till the completion of the second Supplement according to a specific programme approved by the ECI. Supervisory officers maintain checks on the quality of work done by the BLOs, and closely monitor it. Each Supervisory Officer has 10-20 BLOs under his/her supervision. Apart from the machinery involved in the process of the preparation and revision of the electoral rolls, community participation has also been identified as one of the ways in which political parties can appoint their representatives as Booth Level Agents (BLAs) on the pattern of appointment of Polling Agents, to complement the task of BLOs. Normally, one BLA may be appointed for each part of the electoral roll. The BLA must be a registered elector in the relevant part of the electoral roll for which he/she is appointed, as it is expected that the BLA will scrutinise the entries in the draft roll of the area where he/she resides, in order to identify the entries of dead persons and shifted persons.
COMPUTERISATION OF ROLLS
The Election Commission has undertaken the computerisation of all electoral rolls throughout India, which has lead to improvements in the accuracy and speed with which the electoral roll can be updated.
ELECTORS' PHOTO IDENTITY CARDS
The Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC) is an identity document issued by the electoral registration officer. The EPIC contains details of the elector like name, father’s/mother’s/husband’s name, date of birth/ age on the qualifying date, sex, address, and most importantly, the photograph of the elector. EPIC is a permanent document for an elector. It is to be used by the elector to establish one’s identity at the time of polls. It is compulsory for an elector who has been issued an EPIC to produce the EPIC at the time of polling to enable voting. For a long time, impersonation had been one of the many ills plaguing the electoral system of our country. With the intention of preventing impersonation at polls, the Commission had, in the years 1994-95, introduced the EPIC to identify the voters at the time of polls. The Commission has always been trying its best to raise the coverage of issuing EPICs to 100%, but due to a significant number of new additions to the electors’ list, the death of existing electors and migration of people from one place to another, the target has not been achieved, so far in a few States. Therefore, the Commission allows certain alternative documents like government I-cards, passports, PAN cards, driving license, bank/post office account passbook, property documents, SC/ST/OBC certificate, pension documents, freedom fighter identity card, arms license, certificate of the physically handicapped, job cards issued under NREGA and health insurance scheme smart cards to establish the identity of the electors in the polling stations. The present coverage of EPIC at the national level has been above 99%.
THE ELECTORAL EVENT - WHEN DO ELECTIONS TAKE PLACE?
Elections for the Lok Sabha and every State Legislative Assembly have to take place every five years, unless called earlier. The President can dissolve Lok Sabha and call a general election before five years are up, if the government can no longer command the confidence of the Lok Sabha, and if there is no alternative government available to take over. General elections to the Lok Sabha took place in 1952, 1957, 1962, 1967, 1971, 1977, 1984, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014. Holding of regular elections can only be deferred by means of a constitutional amendment and in consultation with the Election Commission, and it is recognised that interruptions of regular elections are acceptable only in extraordinary circumstances. When the five-year limit is up, or the legislature has been dissolved and new elections have been called, the Election Commission puts into effect the process for holding an election.
SCHEDULING OF ELECTION
The election process starts with the issue of notification for the Parliamentary Constituencies and Assembly Constituencies. As per legal provisions, a period of seven days is provided for the filing of nominations after the notification is issued. The scrutiny of the nominations is carried out on the day following the last date for nominations. Thereafter, two days are provided for the withdrawal of nominations and the final list of candidates is prepared after the withdrawal. The campaign period is usually of 14 days or more, and the campaign comes to an end 48 hours before the close of the polls in the respective constituencies.
DEPLOYMENT OF POLLING PERSONNEL
Another important aspect is the deployment of poll personnel. This is done through a three-stage randomisation process, which is as follows:
First Stage: At this stage, the purpose is to identify and select the required number of polling personnel for the District. In the appointment letter the identity of the Assembly Constituency (AC) is not to be disclosed. Polling personnel will know whether he/she is a Presiding Officer (PrO) or a Polling Officer (PO), the venue and time of training. The presence of Observers is not required at this stage.
Second Stage: Polling parties are formed at this stage. The AC may be known, but the actual Polling Station (PS) is not known. Observers must be present. This randomisation is not to be done before 6/7 days from the day of the poll.
Third Stage: At the time of the dispersal of the polling party, the allocation of the PS is done. The presence of Observers is a must and the certificate regarding the formation of polling parties on the basis of the three-stage randomisation process needs to be given by the DEO to the ECI and separately to the CEO.
In the 2014 General Elections, the arrangements at the polling stations were reviewed and instructions were issued to have a minimum guaranteed environ at the polling stations, comprising certain Basic Minimum Facilities (BMF) such as drinking water, shade/shelter, light, ramps and so on. The voting compartment was standardised for all States and UTs by issuing instructions to set them up in such a way that the secrecy of the ballot was not compromised and prohibited materials such as jute bags and plastic sheets were not used.
WHO CAN STAND FOR ELECTION
Any Indian citizen who is registered as a voter is otherwise not disqualified under the Law 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. Candidates for Vidhan Sabha should be residents of the same state from which they wish to contest. Every candidate has to make deposit of Rs. 25,000/- for Lok Sabha election and Rs. 10,000/- 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 recognised Party and by ten registered electors from the constituency in case of other candidates. Returning Officers, appointed by the Election Commission, are put in charge to receive nominations of candidates in each constituency, and oversee the formalities of the election. In a number of seats in the Lok Sabha and the Vidhan Sabha, the candidates can only be from either one of the scheduled castes or scheduled tribes. The number of these reserved seats is meant to be approximately in proportion to the number of people from scheduled castes or scheduled tribes in each state. There are currently 84 seats reserved for the scheduled castes and 47 reserved for the scheduled tribes in the Lok Sabha.
NOMINATION & CAMPAIGN
The campaign is the period when the political parties and candidates put forward their arguments with which they hope to persuade people to vote for them. Candidates are given a week to put forward their nominations. These are scrutinised by the Returning Officers and if not found to be in order can be rejected after a summary hearing. Validly nominated candidates can withdraw within two days after nominations have been scrutinised. The official campaign lasts for above two weeks from the drawing up of the list of nominated candidates, and officially ends 48 hours before polling closes. Once an election has been called, parties issue manifestos detailing the programmes they wish to implement if elected to government, the strengths of their leaders, and the failures of opposing parties and their leaders. Slogans are used to popularise and identify parties and issues, and pamphlets and posters distributed to the electorate. Rallies and meetings where the candidates try to persuade, cajole and enthuse supporters, and denigrate opponents, are held throughout the constituencies. Personal appeals and promises of reform are made, with candidates travelling the length and breadth of the constituency to try to influence as many potential supporters as possible. Party symbols abound, printed on posters and placards.
MODEL CODE OF CONDUCT
During the election campaign the political parties and contesting candidates are expected to abide by a Model Code of Conduct evolved by the Election Commission on the basis of a consensus among political parties. The Model Code lays down broad guidelines as to how the political parties and candidates should conduct themselves during the election campaign. It is intended to maintain the election campaign on healthy lines, avoid clashes and conflicts between political parties or their supporters and to ensure peace and order during the campaign period and thereafter, until the results are declared. The Model Code also prescribes guidelines for the ruling party either at the Centre or in the State to ensure that a level field is maintained and that no cause is given for any complaint that the ruling party has used its official position for the purposes of its election campaign.
LIMIT ON POLL EXPENSES
There are tight legal limits on the amount of money a candidate can spend during the election campaign. In most Lok Sabha constituencies the limit as recently amended is Rs. 70,00,000/- although in some smaller States the limit is Rs. 28,00,000/-. For Vidhan Sabha elections. Although supporters of a candidate can spend as much as they like to help out with a campaign, they have to get written permission of the candidate. Similarly, while parties are allowed to spend as much money on campaigns as they want, recent Supreme Court judgments have said that, unless a political party can specifically account for money spent during the campaign, it will consider any activities as being funded by the candidates and counting towards their election expenses. The accountability imposed on the candidates and parties has curtailed some of the more extravagant campaigning that was previously a part of Indian elections.
BALLOT PAPERS & SYMBOLS
After nomination of candidates is complete, a list of competing candidates is prepared by the Returning Officer, and ballot papers are printed. Ballot papers are printed with the names of the candidates (in languages set by the Election Commission) alongwith there photographs and the symbols allotted to each of the candidates. Candidates of recognised Parties are allotted their Party symbols. Some electors, including members of the armed forces or Government of India officials serving outside the country, are allowed to vote by post.
ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINE
Electronic Voting Machines have been developed to facilitate easy polling and counting. The use of machine is to save cost of paper and printing etc. and also to get the result within three to four hours, thus saving a lot of manual exercise involved in conventional counting. The machines have been developed by Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) and Bharat Electronics Corporation of India Limited (BEL). These machines provide full safeguard for ensuring secrecy of ballot and against tampering of machines apart from ensuring rapidity of poll and instantaneous results. The Parliament has amended the Representation of People Act, 1951, in March, 1989, introducing Section 61 (A) in the said Act, which provided for the recording of votes of voting machines in such manner as may be prescribed, may be adopted in such constituency or constituencies as the Election Commission may specify. In pursuance of the above provisions, the Central Government amended the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, by inserting a new Chapter II [Rules 49(a) to 49(x)] for facilitating the use of Electronic Voting Machines. The Commission has already made arrangements to ensure availability of adequate number of EVMs for the smooth conduct of elections. The Commission has issued a new set of instructions with regard to the First Level Check of EVMs, that will be used in the poll in the States. The First Level Check of EVMs, is done in the presence of representatives of political parties. A two-stage randomization of EVMs are done. In the first stage, all the EVMs stored in the district storage centre will be randomized by the District Election Officer (DEO) in the presence of the representatives of the recognized political parties for allocation assembly constituency-wise. EVMs will be prepared and set for elections after finalization of the contesting candidates. At this stage also, candidates or their agents/representatives will be allowed to check and satisfy themselves in every manner about the functionality of the EVMs. After the EVMs in a constituency are prepared for the poll by the Returning Officer and the ballot units are fitted with ballot papers, then the EVMs will again be randomized to decide the actual polling stations in which they will be ultimately used. The Second Stage randomization will be done in the presence of Observers, Candidates or their Election Agents.
VVPAT – VOTER VERIFIABLE PAPER AUDIT TRAIL
From 2013, a new system has been added in the EVM called Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail. A printer is attached with the EVM and kept into Voting Compartment which prints S.No., Name and Symbol of the candidate for whom a voter has voted. This printed slip remains exposed for 7 seconds under a transparent window and gets cut automatically and falls into a dropbox which remain sealed.
NONE OF THE ABOVE (NOTA) OPTION IN EVMs
In its judgment dated 27th September, 2013 in Writ Petition (C) No. 161 of 2004, the Supreme Court has directed that there should be a “None of the Above” (NOTA) option on the ballot papers and EVMs. The Court has directed that the Commission should implement it ‘either in a phased manner or at a time with the assistance of Government of India’.
On the Balloting Unit, below the name of the last candidate, there will now be a button for NOTA option so that electors who do not want to vote for any of the candidates can exercise their option by pressing the button against NOTA.
The Commission takes all steps to bring this to the knowledge of voters and all other stakeholders and to train all field level officials including the polling personnel about the NOTA option. Similarly NOTA provision is also there for the Postal Ballots.
AFFIDAVITS OF CANDIDATES – ALL COLUMNS TO BE FILLED IN
In pursuance of the judgment dated 13th September, 2013 passed by the Supreme Court in Writ Petition (C) No. 121 of 2008, which among other things makes it obligatory for the Returning Officer “to check whether the information required is fully furnished at the time of filing of affidavit disclosing their criminal antecedents, assets, liabilities and qualifications with the nomination paper”, the Commission has issued instructions that in the affidavit to be filed along with the nomination paper, candidates are required to fill up all columns. If any column in the affidavit is left blank, the Returning Officer will issue a notice to the candidate to file the affidavit with all columns filled in. After such notice, if a candidate fails to file affidavit complete in all respect, the nomination paper will be liable to be rejected at the time of scrutiny. The Chief Electoral Officer has been directed to brief all Returning Officers about the judgment of the Supreme Court and the Commission’s instructions.
The Commission attaches great importance to preparation and implementation of a perfect communication plan at the district/constituency level for the smooth conduct of elections and to enable concurrent intervention and mid course correction on the poll day. For the said purpose, the Commission has directed the Chief Electoral Officer of states to coordinate with the officers of Telecommunication Department in the State headquarters, BSNL/MTNL authorities, the representatives of other leading service providers in the State so that network status in the States is assessed and communication shadow areas be identified. The CEO has also been advised to ensure best communication plan in the State.
All critical events are video-graphed. District Election Officers arrange sufficient number of video and digital cameras and camera teams for the purpose. The events for videography will include filing of nominations, scrutiny thereof and allotment of symbols, First Level Checking, preparations and storage of Electronic Voting Machines, important public meetings, processions etc. during campaign, process of dispatching of postal ballot papers, polling process in identified vulnerable polling stations, storage of polled EVMs, counting of votes etc. Webcasting, Videography and Digital cameras are deployed inside polling booths wherever needed. CDs of video recordings will be available on payment to anyone who wishes to obtain a copy of the same.
Security is integral to the conduct of peaceful and impartial elections and it is an inseparable part of the electoral process. During the 2014 General Election, the onus of ensuring free and fair elections was on the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) as they are considered to be free from local influences. The personnel of the State Police and Central Police Forces stand deputed to the ECI and they come under its superintendence, direction and control for all purposes during this period. The security arrangements and custodianship of delivering free and fair elections also becomes very challenging given the massive electorate spread across vast regions and often amid extremely daunting factors. Threat perceptions existed manifold during the 2014 Lok Sabha Election including the prevalent Left-Wing extremism in some parts of the country, the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and certain parts of the North–East, overall communally sensitive situations, poll related caste and sectarian violence, and threat perception to prominent leaders during the campaign period. Keeping this in mind, the designing of the poll schedule and the multi-phase elections followed the logic of force availability and mobilisation. Security management on poll days as well as during the campaign period is given high importance. The following strategies were adopted for different areas:
Left-Wing Extremism Areas: A longer timeframe and strategically planned early elections are required here.
Jammu and Kashmir: The provision for staggered polls is a time-tested approach here. It was kept on a separate orbit covering all phases.
The North– East: Apart from festivals and pre-monsoons, security is a major consideration for this region. The ECI took measures to maintain law and order, including preventive actions and special drives to update lists of history sheeters, executing non-bailable warrants, expediting decisions on pending election-related cases, unearthing of illicit liquor, seizure of illegal arms and ammunition, prohibitory orders, checking and deposition of licensed arms, ban on the issuing of new arms, setting up of check posts to monitor the movement of illegal arms, antisocial elements, cash and liquor, and preventive and daily law and order reports, among others. The ECI undertook an elaborate exercise to assess the national availability of Central and State Security forces, and the requirements posed by different States and UTs for Central Forces. As the demand is usually higher than the availability, the ECI ensured full optimisation of the State Security Forces, comprising the State Armed Police (SAP), Home Guards, the District Police and so on. The ECI emphasised having a system in place to avail of data regarding force multipliers. A very close coordination with the Ministry of Home Affairs was maintained throughout, as well as with the Heads of the different security agencies. A set of consolidated instructions for the deployment of the Forces was issued. The ECI also issued directions for force multipliers, among others. A very detailed National Plan for the movement and deployment of the Forces was drawn in consultation with the Chief Coordinator of the CAPFs and the Indian Railways. The ECI reviewed the deployment and movement of the forces regularly and closely monitored the implementation of the plan. The role of the security forces starts much before poll day and ends only after the declaration of the results, after the counting of votes.
CAPFs arrive in advance for area domination. Flag marches, as well as extensive patrolling and other confidence building measures. The provision of an area-wise list of antisocial elements for spot verification of their whereabouts, presence and activities. Interaction with the local population to enhance public confidence. POLL DAY Guarding polling stations, polling material, poll personnel and the poll process. Guarding trouble spots. Patrolling duty on assigned routes covering an identified cluster of polling stations. Patrolling duty as ‘flying squads’ in a defined area, with an element of surprise. Escort duty of polled EVMs.
Guard duty of polled EVMs till the counting process is over. Ensuring the maintenance of law and order for victory processions of the winning candidate. Robust security measures were ensured in every part of the election process and more especially in vulnerable areas so that there was no intimidation of any voter. Security personnel from various forces were deployed and on constant move across the country during the 10 poll days of the elections. The Indian Railways lent valuable support in the movement and care of the forces. The Indian Air Force (IAF) provided helicopter services for air-lifting the security and polling personnel to and from polling stations not reachable by any other means, whether in geographically difficult terrain, inclement weather conditions, across long distances or in Left-wing Extremism-affected areas. The highlights of the security arrangements were: 1,349 Companies of the CAPFs were deployed from the beginning till the end. They were used from one poll day to the other, thus having a Force Multiplier Effect, raising the overall number of Companies to 8,087. As many as 76 helicopters of the IAF were deployed to airlift security personnel, polling personnel and polling material. 1,516 sorties were performed by the helicopters. Air Ambulances were kept in readiness for meeting any eventuality at sensitive points – a motivational force for the security personnel. 570 trains were organised for the movement of the CAPFs, polling and other personnel. As many as 932 special coaches were provided by the Indian Railways, with pantry facilities and sanitation staff. Arrangements were made for picking food packets of the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) from designated stations enroute.
Identification by Sector Officer of vulnerable areas/communities by visiting catchment area of respective polling stations. Meetings with community, local intelligence, etc. Identify source of threat and intimidation. Identify names of people who are likely to start such offence of undue influence. Take into account past incidences and current apprehensions. Finalize in consultation with SHO, BDO, Tehsildar. Identify point of contact within the community so that information related to such incidences can be tracked immediately. Polling Station wise lists shall be prepared. DEO & SP shall initiate all preventive measures & confidence building measures. Binding trouble mongers under appropriate laws. Preventive detention if required. Forcing appearance in local stations to ensure good behavior. Placement of Police pickets.
LAW AND ORDER & DEPLOYMENT OF FORCES
Conduct of elections involves elaborate security management. It includes ensuring the security of polling personnel, security at the polling stations, security of polling materials and also the overall security of the election process. Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) are deployed for area domination prior to poll in order to build confidence in the minds of voters specially vulnerable voters viz. weaker section, minorities etc. Keeping all this in mind, the very designing of the poll schedule, and sequencing of multi-phase elections and choice of constituencies for each phase had to follow the logic of force availability and force management.
The Commission has taken various measures to ensure free and fair elections by creating an atmosphere in which each elector is able to access the polling station without being obstructed or being unduly influenced/intimidated by anybody.
Based on the assessment of the ground situation, Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) and State Armed Police (SAP) drawn from other States are deployed during these elections. The CAPF and SAP are used generally for safeguarding the polling stations and for providing security to the electors and polling personnel at the polling stations on the poll day. Besides, these forces are used for securing the strong rooms where the EVMs are stored and for securing the counting centers and for other purposes, as required.
The Commission has been issuing instructions from time to time with regard to the advance preventive measures to be taken by the District Magistrates and Police authorities to maintain the Law & Order and to create atmosphere conducive for the conduct of free and fair elections. The Commission constantly monitors the ground situation closely and takes appropriate measures to ensure peaceful, free and fair polls in the States.
The Commission deploys General Observers who are senior civil servants from other state cadres in adequate number to ensure smooth conduct of elections. The Observers are asked to keep a close watch on every stage of the electoral process to ensure free and fair elections. Their names, addresses within the district/constituency and their telephone numbers are publicized in local newspapers so that the general public can quickly approach them for any grievance redressal. The Observers are given a detailed briefing by the Commission before their deployment.
ELECTION EXPENDITURE MONITORING
Comprehensive instructions for the purpose of effective monitoring of the election expenditure of the candidates have been issued, which include formation of Flying Squads, Static Surveillance Teams, Video Surveillance Teams, involvement of Investigation Directorates of Income Tax Deptt. etc. State Excise Departments and Police authorities are asked to monitor production, distribution, sale and storage of liquor and other intoxicants during the election process.
For greater transparency and for ease of monitoring of Election Expenses, Candidates are required to open a separate bank account and incur their election expenses from that very account. The Investigation Directorate of Income Tax Dept. are asked to open Air Intelligence unit in the airports of these states and also to gather intelligence and take necessary action against movement of large sum of money in these states.
Expenditure Observers and Assistant Exp. Observers from Central Government are being appointed to keep close watch on election expenditure of the candidates. Control room and Complaint Monitoring Centre with 24 hours toll free numbers shall be operative during the entire election process. Banks and financial intelligence units of Government of India have been asked to forward suspicious cash withdrawal reports to the election officials.
To deal with the issue of ‘Paid News’, a mechanism has been laid out with three tier of Media Certification and Monitoring Committees (MCMC) at District, State and ECI level. Revised comprehensive instruction on ‘Paid News’ are available on the Commission’s Website.
The Commission may deploy senior IPS officers of other States as Police Observers in district level, in the poll going States depending upon the need and sensitivity. They monitor all activities relating to force deployment, law and order situation and co-ordinate between Civil and Police administration to ensure free and fair election.
In addition to General Observers, the Commission also deploys Micro Observers to observe the poll proceedings in the polling stations on the poll day in selected critical polling stations. They are chosen from Central Government/Central PSUs officials. Micro-Observers will observe the proceedings at the polling stations on the poll day right from the mock poll to the completion of poll and the process of sealing of EVMs and other documents to ensure that all instructions of the Commission are complied with by the Polling Parties and the Polling Agents. They report to the General Observers directly about any vitiation of the poll proceedings in their allotted polling stations.
SYSTEMATIC VOTERS’ EDUCATION & ELECTORAL PARTICIPATION (SVEEP)
Comprehensive measures for voters’ education are taken up during the Special Roll Revision process in the state. These measures will continue and are further augmented during the electoral process.
10% of the lowest turnout Polling Stations in each district are identified and possible reasons for the lower turnout analysed. KABBP (Knowledge, Attitude, Behaviour, Belief and Practices) survey are undertaken by the Chief Electoral Officer and interventions based on the findings are taken up.
Chief Electoral Officer of the state are directed to ensure wide dissemination of election related information as well as adequate facilitation measures for ensuing wider participation of people in polling. Model polling stations are set up. Voter helplines, Voters’ Facilitation Centres, Web and SMS based search facilities are active for assistance of voters. There are special facilities in place for persons with disability.
Awareness Observers from Central Government are being appointed to observe the SVEEP programme carried out during the election period for ensuring that information reaches the grassroot.
DISTRICT ELECTION PLAN
The District Election Officers prepare a comprehensive district election plan in consultation with SPs and Sector Officers including the route plan and communication plan for conduct of elections. These plans are vetted by the Observers taking into account vulnerability mapping exercise and mapping of critical polling station in accordance with Election Commission of India’s extant instructions.
PHOTO VOTER SLIPS
To facilitate the voters to know where he/she is enrolled as a voter at a particular polling station and what is his/her serial number in the Electoral roll, the Commission has directed that voter slip along with Photo (wherever present in the roll) will be distributed to all enrolled voters by the District Election Officer. It has also been directed that the said voter slip should be in the languages in which electoral roll is published for that Assembly Constituency.
COMPLAINT REDRESSAL MECHANISM – CALL CENTER & WEBSITE BASED
State shall have a complaint Redressal Mechanism based on website and call center. The number of call center is 1950, which is a toll free number. The URL of the complaint registration website are announced for the State by the Chief Electoral Officer separately. Complaints can be registered by making calls to the toll free call center numbers or on the web site. Action will be taken within time limit on all complaints. Complainants will also be informed of the action taken by SMS and by the call center. Complainants can also see the details of the action taken on their complaints on the website.
BASIC MINIMUM FACILITIES OF POLLING STATIONS
Ensuring Basic Minimum Facilities (BMF) at all Polling Stations was also taken up on priority. Permanent ramps, electricity, drinking water, toilets (separate for male and female), furniture, signage, wheel chairs etc. at Polling Stations were constructed / arranged with the help of the State Government and other agencies to ensure comfort to the voters on the poll days. The progress in this regard was also monitored weekly by the Commission resulting into significant increase in these facilities at Polling Stations.
Training has an important role in successful conduct of any election. Commission has prepared a structured plan of cascaded training for election related personnel. State level Master Trainers for each activity are trained at (IIIDEM), New Delhi, who in turn train the district level Master Trainers at the State level. Similarly, district level Master Trainer imparts training to Assembly Constituency level Master Trainers. Several rounds of training were conducted for Nodal Officers of various cells, Master Trainers, (DEOs,) (ROs,) (AROs,) Officers of Excise, Police, Income Tax, IT related persons at the State level. Three rounds of training were conducted at district / AC level – as per the state / district training calendar. Power Point Presentation, Audio/ Video training material of ECI, Checklist, Handbook, Do’s and Don’ts, FAQs, hands on training etc. were used for these trainings. Training of (EVM) (VVPAT) at State / Division/ District / AC level for all poll related officials and EVM awareness at Polling Station level were conducted in a planned manner. Randomization of EVM in the State was done through EVM Tracking Software of ECI for the first time.
IT INITIATIVES FOR BETTER ELECTIONS:
The ERMS (Electoral Roll Management System) will cover the entire process of Electoral Roll preparation for the state from Electoral Roll Revision data management to final Electoral Roll publishing.
Salient Features -
- It’s a cluster of window/web based applications developed based web services.
- It covers the entire process of Electoral Roll preparation in the states from electoral roll revision, data management process, electors’ registration, correction and data modification to final publication of Electoral Roll and preparation of Electors Photo Identity Card (EPIC).
The following tools have been integrated for providing citizen services i.e. Search Facility and Voter Slip(Online/Mobile based), and Tracking status of your application, Format 1 to 8 reporting module, Database Error finding module and Rationalizations of Polling Station etc.
Matdata App was used for Voters’ facilitation. Any citizen can search details of enrollment in Electoral Roll through EPIC Number or through Name by downloading the app on his mobile. He/She can also locate his/her Polling Station on Google Map. Further, all nearby Polling Stations near the location of the citizen can be seen on the GPS enabled mobile.
Matdaan App was used for Poll Day Monitoring like Poll events, reaching of Polling Parties reached, PS Image, Votes Cast, Voters’ Images etc. This application has the feature of using it offline in case of non-connectivity of network. All data captured offline is synchronized with the centralized server as soon as the person using the app comes in the coverage area. Through this app, we can find out Voter Turnout (VTR) gender-wise, age-wise and section-wise. Improvement of quality of image in the roll can also be done through this app as we get the recent colour photograph of the voter against old / bad quality photograph in the roll.
This application provided the people / political party to lodge their complaints on the common platform for all complaints received from all sources. Mobile app was available for the people so that they could submit complaints with photographs / videos on the common platform. SMS is sent to complainant on receipt / disposal of complaint. Complainant can track status and view ATR online through the android App.
As part of election campaign, the political parties and candidates are required to obtain permissions for meetings, rallies, vehicles, loudspeakers, temporary party office, helipad and helicopter landing etc. The previous system for granting permission was based on traditional manual processing which involved obtaining consent from various authorities. This was time consuming and nontransparent. In the earlier Single Window System there was no system of proper monitoring, which lead to complaints of delay and bias in grant of permissions. This, at time, lead to allegations against the election related officers. The ‘Suvidha’ software provided for standard forms for applying for different permissions. It also provided a checklist showing the mandatory and optional documents required for different permissions. This made the task of person applying and accepting the application simple and transparent. This also ensured that the chance of rejecting an application was minimal. At the time of applying the mobile number of the applicant was mandatorily collected and email was collected on an optional basis. As soon as the application was accepted an SMS acknowledgement was sent to the applicant giving the application number, date and time of receipt. The application number can be used to track the status on the website. All permission were mandated to be given within 24 hours.
This application was used for management of vehicles in the election right from the requisition of vehicles to its payment / release. The app was used for issuance of requisition letters for vehicles, capturing of vehicle details with address, mobile number and bank details of Owner & Driver, Generation of log book, online entry of payment, transfer of vehicles from one district to another district, generation of payment calculation chart and release order. Information about payment to vehicle owners are also sent through automated SMS. The mobile app was useful for the vehicle owner to lodge any complaint regarding payment as well as for perusal of vehicle movement during election.
The ELECON application was used for creating database of Police / Polling personnel, generation of command / appointment letters, sending SMS regarding deputation / training, tagging of patrolling party with force, generation of application for postal ballot, formation of polling party / police party after randomization, for sending polling personnel / police force from one district to another district etc.
SMS POLL MONITORING
For collection of various types of information through SMS from Presiding Officer / Sector Officer, the app was used for tracking / collecting information regarding various poll events prior to the day of poll to the end of poll. It is an ‘Event based management system’ – from the time of dispatch till the time of deposition of election material after return of parties. Polling parties are distributed in remote locations, so the challenge is to get the information timely. Events of predetermined nature (eg. Polling party dispatched, arrived etc.) or of non-predetermined nature (eg. Incidents of violence). Information regarding all types of such events were received into the system from SMS and Polling station / AC / District-wise reports were auto-generated regarding every event on real-time basis.
Use of online E-Counting software for uploading table-wise/candidate-wise votes polled from the counting hall was done. From android app in the mobile phone one can view the trend of counting / result.
EVM Tracking Software (ETS) is used for tracking the availability, movement of EVM.
USE OF WEBCASTING AT POLLING STATIONS:
The advent of Information Technology has touched all walks of life and played a determining role in all major ventures. It has come to have an important say in bringing transparency and efficiency in the conduct of elections too. In this context, the concept of webcasting has been introduced for poll day monitoring. Webcasting is a process where the entire poll day proceedings are captured as a video file, and streamed live, for viewing at selected locations.
HOW THE VOTING TAKES PLACE
Voting is by secret ballot. Polling Stations are usually set up in public institutions, such as schools and community halls. The Election Commission makes all efforts to ensure that a voter need not travel more than 2 kms. to reach the polling station. Efforts are also made to keep the number of electors for each polling station within 1200. Each polling station is open for at least 8 hours on the day of the election. On entering the polling station, the elector is checked against the Electoral Roll and identity document is verified, indelible ink is applied on the left forefinger and a voter slip is issued and the voter is allowed to cast their vote by activating the ballot button in the control unit by the presiding officer.
Polling for Lok Sabha is normally held on different days in different constituencies, to enable the security forces and those monitoring the election to keep law and order and ensure that voting during the election is fair. Polling for State Assemblies, except for very large states, are generally held in a single day.
COUNTING OF VOTES
After the polling has finished, the votes cast in the EVM are counted under the supervision of Returning Officers and Observers appointed by the Election Commission. After the counting of votes is over, the Returning Officer declares the name of the candidate to whom the largest number of votes have been given as the winner, and as having been returned by the constituency to the concerned house.
Any elector or candidate can file an election petition if he or she thinks there has been malpractice during the election. An election petition is not an ordinary civil suit, but treated as a contest in which the whole constituency is involved. Election petitions are tried by the High Court of the State involved, and if upheld can even lead to the restaging of the election in that constituency.
POLITICAL PARTIES AND ELECTIONS
Political parties are an established part of modern democracy, and the conduct of elections in India is largely dependent on the behaviour of political parties. Although many candidates for Indian elections are independent, the winning candidates for Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections usually stand as members of political parties, and opinion polls suggest that people tend to vote for a party rather than a particular candidate. Parties offer candidates organisational support, and by offering a broader election campaign, looking at the record of government and putting forward alternative proposals for government, help voters make a choice about how the government is run.
REGISTRATION WITH ELECTION COMMISSION
Political parties have to be registered with the Election Commission. The Commission determines whether the party is structured and committed to principles of democracy, secularism and socialism in accordance with the Indian Constitution and would uphold the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India. Parties are expected to hold organisational elections and have a written constitution. The Anti-defection law, passed in 1985, prevents MPs or MLAs elected as candidates from one party forming or joining a new party, unless they comprise more than two-third of the original party in the legislature.
RECOGNITION AND RESERVATION OF SYMBOLS
According to certain criteria, set by the Election Commission regarding the length of political activity and success in elections, parties are categorised by the Commission as National or State parties, or simply declared registered-unrecognised parties. How a party is classified determines a party's right to certain privileges, such as access to electoral rolls and provision of time for political broadcasts on the state-owned television and radio stations - All India Radio and Doordarshan – and also the important question of the allocation of the party symbol. Party symbols enable illiterate voters to identify the candidate of the party they wish to vote for. National parties are given a symbol that is for their use only, throughout the country. State parties have the sole use of a symbol in the state in which they are recognised as such Registered-unrecognised parties can choose a symbol from a selection of 'free' symbols.
SPLITS AND MERGERS
Splits, mergers and alliances have frequently disrupted the compositions of political parties. This has led to a number of disputes over which section of a divided party gets to keep the party symbol, and how to classify the resulting parties in terms of national and state parties. The Election Commission has to resolve these disputes, although its decisions can be challenged in the courts. As of 2014, there are 6 National Parties & 50 State Parties, with 1848 registered-unrecognised parties.
FREE CAMPAIGN TIME ON STATEOWNED ELECTRONIC MEDIA
By an order of the Election Commission, all recognised National and State parties have been allowed free access to the state owned electronic media - AIR and Doordarshan - on the extensive scale for their campaigns during elections. The total free time allocated extends over 122 hours on the state owned Television and Radio channels. This is allocated equitably by combining a base limit and additional time linked to poll performance of the party at the last general election to the House concerned.
In order to bring as much transparency as possible to the electoral process, the media are encouraged and provided with facilities to cover the election, although subject to maintaining the secrecy of the vote. Media persons are given special passes to enter polling stations to cover the poll process and the counting halls during the actual counting of votes. Media are also free to conduct Opinion Polls. By a recent set of Guidelines issued, the Election Commission has stipulated that the results of opinion polls can not be published between two days before the start of polling and after the close of poll in any of the constituencies. Results of exit polls can only be published or made otherwise known only after half an hour of the end of polling hours on the last day of poll.
IIIDEM – International Institute of Indian Democracy and Election Management
The challenge of conducting elections in India fairly, freely and smoothly is formidable. With about 1.2 billion people and more than 834 million voters, India is not only the largest democracy in the world, but a country known for its cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity, with a secular and federal polity binding people together. Add to this the geographical diversity, socio-economic variability, vast gaps in information and knowledge awareness, wherein the election officers and workers confronting a colossal task. The preparation of the election personnel is a continuous exercise and requires a continual upgrade of their expertise, improving professionalism and helping to build a positive electoral culture in the country as well as internationally. As the largest democracy of the world, there is an expectation that India should share its unique experience with other democracies and interested countries. So there is a need to promote inter-institutional contacts, and provide technical support and user-friendly resources to election commissions and authorities around the world on request. Realising the importance and the immediacy of the requirement for a distinct institutional initiative on capacity building, research and knowledge management, the ECI started the operations of the IIIDEM in its Nirvachan Sadan premises in New Delhi from mid-2011 onwards, thereby institutionalising international cooperation and goodwill across the globe. TRAINING THE DEMOCRATIC FORCES Election management and its delivery in a professional way is a technical and skilled task requiring a sustained capacity development of human resources. In June 2011, the ECI established the India International Institute of Democracy and Election Management (IIIDEM) – an institute specialised in grooming a generation of well trained and committed human resources in India and abroad.
TRAINING THE DEMOCRATIC FORCES
The Institute is an integral wing of the ECI, and springs from the realisation of modern India’s founding fathers and Constitution architects that free, fair, credible and professionally managed elections are the bedrock of democracy. Against this backdrop, the IIIDEM is veritably a realisation of the ECI’s aspirations for Indian democracy. It is an instrument for the ECI to continuously keep its tools of election management sharp, ready, and up-to-date. The IIIDEM was envisaged as an advanced resource centre of learning, research, training and extension on participatory democracy and election management. It aims to promote the highest standards of democratic values, principles and practices through capacity building, extension, outreach, research, analysis and knowledge generation and management, thus enabling efficient conduct of free and fair elections and developing mutually beneficial partnerships and collaborations for this purpose, nationally as well as with other Election Management Bodies (EMBs). The IIIDEM functions as a part of the ECI, with the goal to lay a stronger focus on the democratic electoral system and a more professional orientation to its training, outreach and knowledge related activities. The main principles of the Institute are as follows: To promote professional competence in election management and to raise the levels of awareness, knowledge, connectedness and participation of the stakeholders. To support and supplement the efforts of the ECI and associated formations in carrying out its mandate and function. To enable voter-friendly implementation of the election process by competent, credible and skilled managers, and associated formations. To encourage and promote applied research and publication of papers, journals and books in the field of political science, democracy and election management.To play an active role in affirming for India a place of pride and exemplary leadership in the world. Since its establishment, the IIIDEM has delivered more than 100 domestic and international trainings/seminars/ workshops in the short span of only three years, earning encouraging feedback and acclaim. The Institute has designed technical and analytical training curricula, modules pertaining to electoral systems and for training of electoral personnel. It serves as a specialised resource centre for election-related strategies, approaches, innovations, materials, documents and reports. It conducts programmes in many categories such as the following: Election Trainings for ECI officials: For the elections conducted and the electoral rolls maintained by the ECI. Election Trainings for State Election Commissions (SECs): For the elections conducted by and the electoral rolls maintained by SECs.
NATIONAL VOTERS’ DAY: CATALYST FOR INCLUSION
National Voter’s Day is celebrated all over India to mark the set up of Election Commission of India on 25th January, 1950; a day before Indian Constitution came into force.
On this day, newly eligible registered voters are handed over their EPICs and a badge with the slogan “Proud to be a voter-Ready to Vote”. All electors/public present during the NVD celebration are administered NVD pledge across the country on all Polling locations. Outreach measures like Symposia, cycle rallies, human chain, folk-art programmes, mini- marathon races, competitions and awareness seminars for climate building and awareness generation.
Over the last decade, the Election Commission of India has been making incremental efforts to promote inter-institutional contacts, and to provide technical support and user-friendly resources and advice to Election authorities elsewhere, on request. In the process, Election Commission of India has also acquired valuable learning from its counterparts in other countries. This international cooperation outreach has been made in conjunction with India’s foreign policy objectives, to promote democracy and strengthen election administration world-wide. The ECI is presently Founding member and Chair of Association of Asian Election Authorities (2015-16), Founding member and Chair of Forum of Election Management Bodies of South Asia (2012-13), Member of Executive Board of Association of World Election Bodies (2013-17), Member of Steering Committee of Commonwealth Electoral Network (2010-14), Member of Community of Democracies – Working Group on Elections (2014).
CONCLUSION – THE CHALLENGES OF CONDUCTING ELECTIONS IN INDIA
Conduct of elections in a vast country like India involves elaborate security management. It includes ensuring the security of polling personnel, security at the polling stations, security of polling materials and also the overall security of the election process. Central Armed Para Forces are deployed for area domination prior to poll in order to build confidence in the minds of voters specially vulnerable voters viz. weaker section, minorities etc. The challenge is more so in the Left-wing Extremism (LWE) affected areas. The abuse of ‘Money Power’ in election entails certain risks like uneven playing field, lack of fair competition, political exclusion of certain sectors, co-opted politicians under campaign debts and tainted governance with rule of law undermined. Curbing the use of money power during election process is another major challenge in view of its inherent complexities involved. By amendment made to the Representation of the People Act, 1951, conducting and publishing results of exit polls have been prohibited from the time of commencement of poll till half an hour after conclusion of poll in all constituencies. The Commission has been suggesting to the Government that there should be a similar prohibition or restriction on opinion polls also as there could be several manipulated opinion polls which could impact the voting pattern. The prevalence of Web and social media has increased over the years and there have been demands from the political and social groups to regulate the social media during elections as other media is regulated. With the emergence of use of social media for election campaigning and also certain violations of the Electoral Law in the social media, regulation of social media has become important in the interest of transparency and level playing field in the elections.
Edited by ECI