CHAPTER 4ElectoralPoliticsOVERVIEWIn Chapter Two we have seen that in a democracy it is neither possible nornecessary for people to govern directly. The most common form ofdemocracy in our times is for the people to govern through theirrepresentatives. In this chapter we will look at how these representativesare elected. We begin by understanding why elections are necessary anduseful in a democracy. We try to understand how electoral competitionamong parties serves the people. We then go on to ask what makes anelection democratic. The basic idea here is to distinguish democraticelections from non-democratic elections.The rest of the chapter tries to assess elections in India in the light ofthis yardstick. We take a look at each stage of elections, from the drawingof boundaries of different constituencies to the declaration of results. Ateach stage we ask what should happen and what does happen in elections.Towards the end of the chapter, we turn to an assessment of whetherelections in India are free and fair. Here we also examine the role of theElection Commission in ensuring free and fair elections.56D EMOCRATIC POLITICS2015-16(19/01/2015)

4.1 WHY ELECTIONS ?A ssembly EleElecc tion inH a rryy a n aDo most leadersfulfil their electionpromises?The time is after midnight. An expectantcrowd sitting for the past five hours in achowk of the town is waiting for its leaderto come. The organisers assure and reassure the crowd that he would be here anymoment. The crowd stands up whenevera passing vehicle comes that way. Itarouses hopes that he has come.The leader is Mr. Devi Lal, chief ofthe Haryana Sangharsh Samiti, who wasto address a meeting in Karnal on Thursday night. The 76-year-old leader, is avery busy man these days. His day startsat 8 a.m. and ends after 11 p.m. hehad already addressed nine electionmeetings since morning been constantly addressing public meetings forthe past 23 months and preparing for thiselection.This newspaper report is about theState assembly election in Haryanain 1987. The State had been ruled bya Congress party led governmentsince 1982. Chaudhary Devi Lal, thenan opposition leader, led a movementcalled ‘Nyaya Yudh’ (Struggle forJustice) and formed a new party, LokDal. His party joined other oppositionparties to form a front against theCongress in the elections. In theelection campaign, Devi Lal said thatif his party won the elections, hisCHECKYOURPROGRESSgovernment would waive the loans offarmers and small businessmen. Hepromised that this would be the firstaction of his government.The people were unhappy with theexisting government. They were alsoattracted by Devi Lal’s promise. So,when elections were held, they votedoverwhelmingly in favour of Lok Daland its allies. Lok Dal and itspartners won 76 out of 90 seats inthe State Assembly. Lok Dal alonewon 60 seats and thus had a clearmajority in the Assembly. TheCongress could win only 5 seats.Once the election results wereannounced, the sitting ChiefMinister resigned. The newly electedMembers of Legislative Assembly(MLAs) of Lok Dal chose Devi Lal astheir leader. The Governor invitedDevi Lal to be the new ChiefMinister. Three days after theelection results were declared, hebecame the Chief Minister. As soonas he became the Chief Minister, hisGovernment issued a GovernmentOrder waiving the outstanding loansof small farmers, agriculturallabourers and small businessmen.His party ruled the State for fouryears. The next elections were heldin 1991. But this time his party didnot win popular support. TheCongress won the election andformed the government.Jagdeep and Navpreet read this story and drew the following conclusions. Can you say which ofthese are right or wrong (or if the information given in the story is inadequate to call them right orwrong): Elections can lead to changes in the policy of the government. The Governor invited Devi Lal to become the Chief Minister because he was impressed with hisspeeches. People are unhappy with every ruling party and vote against it in the next election. The party that wins the election forms the government. This election led to a lot of economic development in Haryana. The Congress Chief Minister need not have resigned after his party lost elections.ELECTORAL POLITICS572015-16(19/01/2015)

A C T I V I T YDo you know when the last Assembly electionwas held in your state? Which other electionshave taken place in your locality in the last fiveyears? Write down the level of elections (National,Assembly, Panchayat, etc.), when were they heldand the name and designation (MP, MLA, etc.) ofthe persons who got elected from your area.W h y do welecc tions?needd elewee neeElections take place regularly in anydemocracy. We noted in ChapterOne that there are more than onehundred countries in the world inwhich elections take place to choosepeople’s representatives. We alsoread that elections are held in manycountries that are not democratic.But why do we need elections?Let us try to imagine a democracywithout elections. A rule of thepeople is possible without anyelections if all the people can sittogether everyday and take all thedecisions. But as we have alreadyseen in Chapter Two, this is notpossible in any large community.Nor is it possible for everyone tohave the time and knowledge totake decisions on all matters.Therefore in most democraciespeople rule through theirrepresentatives.Is there a democratic way ofselecting representatives withoutelections? Let us think of a placewhere representatives are selectedon the basis of age and experience.Or a place where they are chosenon the basis of education orknowledge. There could be somedifficulty in deciding on who is moreexperienced or knowledgable. But letus say the people can resolve thesedifficulties. Clearly, such a placedoes not require elections.58But can we call this place ademocracy? How do we find out ifthe people like their representativesor not? How do we ensure that theserepresentatives rule as per thewishes of the people? How to makesure that those who the people don’tlike do not remain theirrepresentatives? This requires amechanism by which people canchoose their representatives atregular intervals and change themif they wish to do so. Thismechanism is called election.Therefore, elections are consideredessential in our times for anyrepresentative democracy.In an election the voters makemany choices: They can choose who will makelaws for them. They can choose who will form thegovernment and take majordecisions. They can choose the party whosepolicies will guide the governmentand law making.We have seen whydemocracies needto have elections.But why do rulersin non-democraticcountries need tohold elections?es an eleW h aatt makelecc tionmakesdemocrdemocraa tic?Elections can be held in many ways.All democratic countries holdelections. But most non-democraticcountries also hold some kind ofelections. How do we distinguishdemocratic elections from any otherelection? We have discussed thisquestion briefly in Chapter Two. Wediscussed many examples ofcountries where elections are heldbut they can’t really be calleddemocratic elections. Let us recallwhat we learnt there and start witha simple list of the minimumconditions of a democratic election: First, everyone should be able tochoose. This means that everyoneshould have one vote and everyvote should have equal value.D EMOCRATIC POLITICS2015-16(19/01/2015)

Second,there should besomething to choose from. Partiesand candidates should be free tocontest elections and should offersome real choice to the voters. Third, the choice should be offeredat regular intervals. Elections mustbe held regularly after every fewyears. Fourth, the candidate preferred bythe people should get elected. Fifth,elections should beconducted in a free and fairmanner where people can chooseas they really wish.These might look like very simpleand easy conditions. But there aremany countries where these are notfulfilled. In this chapter we will applythese conditions to the elections heldin our own country to see if we cancall these democratic elections.I s it good ttoo hahavv e politicalcompetition?Ah! So, electionsare like examswhere politiciansand parties know ifthey have passedor failed. But whoare the examiners?Elections are thus all about politicalcompetition. This competition takesvarious forms. The most obvious formis the competition among politicalparties. At the constituency level, ittakes the form of competition amongseveral candidates. If there is nocompetition, elections will becomepointless.But is it good to have politicalcompetition? Clearly, an electoralcompetition has many demerits. Itcreates a sense of disunity and‘factionalism’ in every locality. Youwould have heard of peoplecomplaining of ‘party-politics’ in yourlocality. Different political parties andleaders often level allegations againstone another. Parties and candidatesoften use dirty tricks to win elections.Some people say that this pressureto win electoral fights does not allowsensible long-term policies to beformulated. Some good people whoELECTORAL POLITICSmay wish to serve the country do notenter this arena. They do not like theidea of being dragged into unhealthycompetition.Our Constitution makers wereaware of these problems. Yet theyopted for free competition inelections as the way to select ourfuture leaders. They did so becausethis system works better in the longrun. In an ideal world all politicalleaders know what is good for thepeople and are motivated only by adesire to serve them. Politicalcompetition is not necessary in suchan ideal world. But that is not whathappens in real life. Political leadersall over the world, like all otherprofessionals, are motivated by adesire to advance their politicalcareers. They want to remain inpower or get power and positions forthemselves.They may wish to servethe people as well, but it is risky todepend entirely on their sense ofduty. Besides even when they wishto serve the people, they may notknow what is required to do so, ortheir ideas may not match what thepeople really want.How do we deal with this real lifesituation? One way is to try andimprove the knowledge and characterof political leaders. The other andmore realistic way is to set up asystem where political leaders arerewarded for serving the people andpunished for not doing so. Whodecides this reward or punishment?The simple answer is: the people.This is what electoral competitiondoes. Regular electoral competitionprovides incentives to politicalparties and leaders. They know thatif they raise issues that people wantto be raised, their popularity andchances of victory will increase inthe next elections. But if they fail tosatisfy the voters with their workthey will not be able to win again.592015-16(19/01/2015)

customers. If he does not, thecustomer will go to some other shop.Similarly, political competition maycause divisions and some ugliness,but it finally helps to force politicalparties and leaders to serve thepeople.readthecartoonIrfan KhanSo if a political party is motivatedonly by desire to be in power, eventhen it will be forced to serve thepeople. This is a bit like the waymarket works. Even if a shopkeeperis interested only in his profit, he isforced to give good service to theRead these two cartoons carefully. Write the message of each of them inyour own words. Have a discussion in class on which of the two is closerto the reality in your own locality. Draw a cartoon to depict what electionsdo to the relationship between voters and political leaders.4.2 WHAT IS OUR SYSTEMCan we say that Indian elections aredemocratic? To answer this question,let us take a look at how elections areheld in India. Lok Sabha and VidhanSabha (Assembly) elections are heldregularly after every five years. Afterfive years the term of all the electedrepresentatives comes to an end. TheLok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha stands‘dissolved’. Elections are held in allconstituencies at the same time,either on the same day or within afew days. This is called a generalelection. Sometimes election is heldonly for one constitutency to fill thevacancy caused by death orresignation of a member. This is60OFELECTIONS?called a by-election. In this chapterwe will focus on general cconstituenciesoralElecc toronstituenciesEleYou read about the people ofHaryana electing 90 MLAs. You mayhave wondered how they did that.Did every person in Haryana vote forall the 90 MLAs? You perhaps knowthat this is not the case. In ourcountry we follow an area basedsystem of representation. Thecountry is divided into differentareas for purposes of elections.These areas are called electoralconstitutencies. The voters who livein an area elect one representative.D EMOCRATIC POLITICS2015-16(19/01/2015)

For Lok Sabha elections, the countryis divided into 543 constituencies.The representative elected from eachconstituency is called a Member ofParliament or an MP. One of thefeatures of a democratic election isthat every vote should have equalvalue. That is why our Constitutionrequires that each constituencyshould have a roughly equalpopulation living within it.Similarly, each state is divided intoa specific number of Assemblyconstituencies. In this case, theelected representative is called theMember of Legislative Assembly oran MLA. Each ParliamentaryGULBARGA LOK SABHA CONSTITUENCYconstituency has within it severalassembly constituencies. The sameprinciple applies for Panchayat andMunicipal elections. Each village ortown is divided into several ‘wards’that are like constituencies. Eachward elects one member of thevillage or the urban local body.Sometimes these constituencies arecounted as ‘seats’, for eachconstituency represents one seat inthe assembly. When we say that ‘LokDal won 60 seats’ in Haryana, itmeans that candidates of Lok Dalwon in 60 assembly constituenciesin the state and thus Lok Dal had60 MLAs in the state assembly.GULBARGA DISTRICT IN KARNATAKAAL ANDCHINCHOLIGULBARGAGULBARGA

action of his government. The people were unhappy with the existing government. They were also attracted by Devi Lal’s promise. So, when elections were held, they voted overwhelmingly in favour of Lok Dal and its allies. Lok Dal and its partners won 76 out of 90 seats in the State Assembly. Lok Dal alone won 60 seats and thus had a clear majority in the Assembly. The Congress could win only .