India has a parliamentary system governed under the Constitution of India, which states the decentralization of power among central and state government. The head and supreme commander-in-chief for all defence forces India is the President of India. Election commission is a federal body, enacted under the provisions of the constitution, responsible for monitoring and administering all the electoral processes of India. It ensures free and fair elections without any bias. Lok Sabha is composed of representatives chosen by direct election by the people.
The general elections were held for the first time in 1951. The strength of the house then was 489 seats with members chosen from the 26 states of India. Presently, there are 545 seats out of which two are unelected members of Anglo-Indian community in India. The elections are held every five years unless the government is dissolved beforehand. The members of Lok Sabha are elected through the general elections. The state elections are similar to general elections India. The general and assembly elections are both held with help of the rules laid down in Election Commission of India (ECI). It comprises of high-ranking government officials and is formed according the guidelines of the Indian constitution. The work of the ECI typically starts with the announcement of various important dates and deadlines related to the election, including the dates for voter registration, the filing of nominations, counting and results. Its activities continue throughout the time-period, when the elections are conducted in the country. The fact that elections across the country are held in phases and not at the same time extends the period of its work. The responsibilities of the ECI finally conclude with the submission of the results of the elections.
All Indian citizens have the right to vote that have attained the age of 18 years. The ECI takes various measures to render electoral lists and that includes door to door registration and verification. The next big step of the electoral commission is to make a list of candidates. The candidates should provide their age properties and criminal records. The amount spent on campaigning is limited because candidates are likely to give bribery, gifts and benefits to the voters. Candidates should stop campaigning 48 hours before the polling begins. An indelible ink is applied on the finger of the voter once the process is complete; this is done in order to avoid the risk of bogus voting. The electronic voting machines or EVMS have replaced the traditional ballot boxes.
Soon after the voting process is over, the EVMs are conducted under strict security to highly guarded centres where they are kept till the counting begins. There are provisions of bye-elections in booths and constituencies where some kind of dispute arises related to the voting process. The candidate with the maximum number of votes in a single constituency is declared to be the winner. On declaration of results, the legislative head invites the winning party to form the government. In the case of the centre, it is the President; whereas in the states, it is the Governor, who performs this duty. The party then has to ensure its majority through a vote of confidence. It needs a simple majority of at least 50% of the house to form the government.
Types of elections –
- Members of the Parliament in Lok Sabha: This is the most important election that takes place once in 5 years. Leader of the alliance takes oath as the Prime Minister.
- Members of the State Legislative Assembly: people directly elect their representatives for the Legislative Assembly. The total strength of each assembly depends on each state, mostly based on size and population.
- Members of the parliament in Rajya Sabha: Rajya Sabha is the upper house and its members are not directly elected by the people. They are elected by the members of legislative assembly of the respective states.
- Members in local panchayat: people directly elect their representatives for a smaller geographical area. There are different types of local bodies namely corporations, municipalities, panchayats, etc.
BHAVIK (EVM) was first used in 1997 elections and became the only method of voting in India. It provides faster results. Voter verified paper audit trail unit produces a paper slip, additionally called ballot slip, which contains the name, serial number and image of the candidate selected by the voter for his vote. The Supreme Court of India judged that citizens have the right to a negative vote by exercising a ‘none of the above’ (NOTA) option. India does not provide general absentee voting but it provides voting rights to Non-Resident Indians but still the physical presence at the voting booth is required.