There was a time when the rulers of the Princely States use to rule a region and the kingship went onto pass hereditarily. However, as the society progressed and we strived for justness and the notion of equality and equal opportunity, the concept of elections was evolved. India, being a democratic republic, made comprehensive provisions for elections in order to avoid the element of vagueness and unjustness in its practice.
The process of the elections in a democratic country like India holds great value, as the people of India elect the people who form the government at various levels in India and therefore, the process needs to be fair and just in all aspects. The duty of conducting free and fair elections is bestowed upon the Election Commission of India for National and State level elections and on State Election Commissions for local body elections.
The Election Commission cannot be vitiated as it draws its power straight from the Constitution. Such provisions were added to make the elections in India, as just as possible. Moreover, the courts have been barred from exercising any jurisdiction over the matters related to elections and the EC has been given exclusive jurisdiction unless any aggrieved person moves to the court.
Elections in India are conducted majorly at two levels- National and State. The following discussion will deal with all three in a brief manner.
At National Level, the elections are of two types- a.) The Executive; b.) The Legislature. However, at the State Level, the elections are only conducted for forming the legislature.
a.)Executive- (Relevant Articles from Constitution- 54, 55, 58 for President & 66 for Vice President)
The elections of the President and the Vice President mainly fall within this category. The President is elected by an electoral college that consists of the elected members of the Vidhan Sabhas, Lok Sabha, and Rajya Sabha, and serves for a period of 5 years. A formula is used to allot votes proportionately between the population of each state and the number of votes assembly members from a state can cast, and to strike a balance between State Assembly members and National Parliament members. If a candidate doesn’t get the majority, then the votes of losing candidates are transferred to the ones above them 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.
b.)The Legislature- (Union Legislature-: Relevant Articles from Constitution: 80, 81 & 84) (State Legislature-: Articles: 168-173)
The elections for the two houses of the Parliament i.e.- Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha fall within this category. Elections for Lok Sabha are done by the method of first-past-the-post electoral system. The country is divided into different geographical units called as constituencies, and the voters can vote for a candidate, the value of which would be one and then, the candidate securing the most no. of votes is declared a winner from that particular constituency and becomes the Member of Parliament. As per Art. 81 of the Constitution, the total number of elected members of the House of the People shall not exceed 550 members.
The method of elections for Rajya Sabha is similar to that of President and Vice President. The members are indirectly elected by the citizens at large. Rajya Sabha members are elected by each State Vidhan Sabha using the Proportional Representation system. At present, there are 233 members of the Rajya Sabha elected by the Vidhan Sabhas, however, the Constitution allows for 238 elected members and 12 nominated members as representatives of literature, science, art and social services, nominated by the President. Rajya Sabha members serves for six years, with one third of the assembly being elected after every 2 years.
Elections to the Vidhan Sabhas or the Legislative Assemblies are carried out in the same manner as for the Lok Sabha elections, with states and union territories divided into single-member constituencies, and the first-past-the-post electoral system used.
In some States, bicameral legislatures exist. In such States, the manner of elections in the Legislative Councils (Vidhan Parishad) is the same as for the Rajya Sabha.
There is a provision for by-elections, which are conducted in case a seat is vacated by any legislator due to death, disqualification or resignation.
Further, the local municipalities are also elected in the manner prescribed above or as the State Election Commission decides to have them elected.
Eligibility of Voters and Candidates- (Eligibility of Voters-: Relevant Articles from Constitution: 325 & 326) (Eligibility of Candidates-: Articles: 84 for Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha & Articles: 58 for President and 66 for Vice President & Articles: 173 for State Legislatures)
The Constitution of India follows the principle of universal adult suffrage where any citizen over the age of 18 can vote in an election. The right to vote cannot be discriminated on the basis of caste, creed, religion or gender. Though the people with unsound mind and people convicted of certain criminal offenses are not allowed to vote. The age of voting was reduced from 21 to 18 by the 61st Constitutional Amendment in 1989.
Now, as far as the candidature for elections is concerned, any Indian citizen who is registered as a voter and has crossed the 25 years of age is allowed to contest elections for Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabhas. The age limit is 30 years in case of Rajya Sabha and Legislative Councils. Candidates for the Rajya Sabha, Vidhan Sabha, and Vidhan Parishad should be a resident of the same State from which they wish to contest. However, the same is not mandatory for Lok Sabha. For Example- the present PM of India, Shri Modi is the MP from Varanasi, though his home falls in Gujarat.
India has always strived and has successfully achieved a constitutional democracy along with a parliamentary system of government. The core of the system is made by a commitment to hold free and fair elections. The election in India is a big event as they determine the composition of the government, the membership of the two Houses of Parliament, the State and Union Territory Legislative Assemblies, and the Presidency and Vice-Presidency. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that the process and the method of elections be made as fair and transparent as possible to ensure a pro-people ruling regime forms the government and the choice of people is respected at every level.