India is a constitutional democracy with a parliamentary system of government, and at the heart of the system is a commitment to hold regular, free and fair elections.
These elections 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.
Structure of Elections in India
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 primarily deals with the preparation and revision of electoral rolls, the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which deals in components with all characteristics of conducting elections and post-election disputes.
The Supreme Court of India has held that where the validated laws are silent or make insufficient provision to deal with a given situation in the conduct of elections, the Election Commission has the redundant powers under the Constitution to act in an appropriate manner.
Indian Elections – Scale of Operation
Elections in India are events involving political mobilization and organizational complexity on an amazing scale. There is also an assured deployment of civilian police and security forces to ensure that the elections are carried out peacefully. Conduct of General elections in India for grailing a new Lower House of Parliament i.e. Lok Sabha involves management of the largest event in the world. The electorate exceeds 670 million electors in about 930000 polling stations spread across widely varying geographic and climatic zones. With 814 million voters in India, several polling stations vary from location to location.
Constituencies and Reservation of Seats
India has been divided into 543 Parliamentary Constituencies, each of which returns one MP to the Lok Sabha, the Lower House of the Parliament. The size and shape of the parliamentary constituencies are determined by an independent Delimitation Commission aiming to create constituencies which have roughly the same population, subject to geographical considerations and the boundaries of the states and administrative areas.
The Constitution puts a limit on the size of the Lok Sabha of 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.
System of Election
Elections to the Lok Sabha are carried out using a first-past-the-post electoral system. The country is split up into separate geographical areas, known as constituencies, and the electors can cast one vote each for a candidate, where most candidates stand as independents, most successful candidates stand as members of political parties. The winner is the candidate who gets the maximum votes.
Who can vote?
The democratic system in India is based on the principle of universal adult suffrage i.e. any citizen over the age of 18 can vote in an election. 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 are several other aspects and constitutional procedures which announces it a mandate to have a free and fair elections.
In order to bring as much transparency as possible to the entire electoral process, the media are encouraged and provided with facilities to cover the election.
No voter should be left behind is the main objective of Election Commission of India.
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