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ELECTIONS AND POLITICS IN INDIAN DEMOCRACY
Elections, politics, and all the events that surround them are extremely important in a democracy like India, which achieved independence after a prolonged fight against communalism. The spirit of democracy empowers people to elect officials who will work in their favour and ensure that their fundamental necessities are met. India’s party-political sphere is teeming with parties that represent the rich fabric of Indian society. Many are rooted in specific areas and states, and are founded on cultural and geographical characteristics. Parties throughout the political landscape have managed to unite on monetary policy, but remain divided on social programmes and bigger concerns confronting India, such as national development and secularism. The continuous absence of internal democracy, along with an increase in systemic corruption and corrupt political behaviours, is cause for grave worry. Parties would be capable to provide strategies for a better, more just society if they had a broader vision of government and avoided temptations to centralise power and chase personal gain.
KEY WORDS: Elections, Democracy, Electoral Politics, Political Parties
Democracy is a system in which citizens elect their leaders and representatives through free and fair elections, which are the most fundamental component of a democracy. Elections in India have always been a widely discussed topic, regardless of whether the elections are years or months away. One of the main reasons why elections are such a major topic for discussion in the country is that they are the only method for common citizens to have a say in significant policy choices and to pick officials to represent them.
As the country’s politics evolves with each passing day, the breadth of electoral discussion has expanded from only adults to youth. Elections in India are becoming increasingly important due to the country’s growing political competitiveness.
Following India’s independence, the country’s politics evolved, resulting in an increase in voter turnout and public participation. Despite the multiple unfavorable circumstances at the time of independence, India, as one of the major developing countries, has preserved and attempted to uplift the spirit of democracy since its independence in 1947. Inadequate socioeconomic conditions, widespread poverty, and a socially stratified structure are enough to stifle any democracy, but India has continued to maintain a democratic system through free and fair elections.
The emergence of democracy in a historically remote environment like India is nothing but remarkable. India has been a constitutional democracy with a parliamentary system of government for nearly half a century.
Elections in the world’s largest and most complex democracy are always a widely discussed topic, not only across the country but worldwide also. Although India is not a developed country, the results have a global impact. Political competition has taken many different forms throughout the years, but it can also be acknowledged with giving voters a lot of options while deciding who to vote for, who will work for their welfare and, in the end, for the greater good of the country.
- ELECTIONS IN INDIA
A democracy’s foundation is the equal platform and rights for every citizen; however, it is hard for every person to participate directly in significant decision-making in a great democratic framework. This is why representation and elected representatives are important for democratic elections. Elections are the most outward symbol of the democratic process.
Elections are a democratic method of selecting representatives. They ensure that the representatives rule by the preferences of the people. Elections enable people to select representatives to introduce laws, establish governments, and make important choices. Voters may select which party’s policies influences the government and the legislation according to their will. Elections are thus a method via which people pick representatives on a regular basis and replace them as needed and it allows every adult citizen of the country to take part in the government formation process.
The framers of the Constitution placed a high value on an impartial body to oversee election conduct thus leading to the formation and establishment of the Election commission of India.
- ELECTION COMMISSION OF INDIA
The Election Commission of India (ECI) is a self-contained and self-governing organization that manages and supervises Indian elections. The fundamental objective behind the establishment of the Election Commission of Indian was commanding and preserving a proper code of conduct in a multi-layered election environment in the country.
Article 324 of the Indian Constitution bestows the authority of superintendence, control, direction and preparation of electoral conduct to the Election Commission of India for Parliamentary elections, State legislatures and the Office of honourable President and Vice President.
The Election Commission is made up of three commissioners and operates as a multi-member body. The President appoints the Chief Election Commissioner and the other two commissioners and they secure the same authority and remunerations as a Supreme Court Judge.
Each commissioner has the power to hold their respective offices until the age of sixty-five, or for a period of up to six years. In the occurrence of a disagreement among the three commissioners, the decision is made by a majority vote.
Political involvement in an institution in charge of controlling and overseeing the political behaviour of the parties may be a highly dangerous, though regular, event. To guarantee that the Election Commission of India remained independent and free from political interference, the Constitution architects established the essential measures. Hence, despite the fact that the Election Commissioners are appointed by the President, their expulsion and any modifications in the terms of their tenure are not at the mercy of the President’s office. Election commissioners’ and Regional Commissioners’ power may only be terminated through the office of the Chief Election Commissioner.
The Chief Election Commissioner can only be dismissed from his position if a resolution is passed against him by the President and both chambers of Parliament on the grounds of professional incompetence or misconduct.
The powers and functions of the Election Commission of India can be distributed under the following heads:
- IMPORTANCE OF THE ELECTION COMMISSION
- An independent constitutional authority guarantees that political parties incur de-recognition if they do not adhere to the appropriate code of conduct or fail to preserve internal party democracy, therefore disciplining them.
- It upholds the values sanctified in the Constitution viz, equality, equity, impartiality, independence; and rule of law in superintendence, direction, and regulation over electoral administration.
- To determine the election programs for the management of recurrent and timely elections, either general or bye-elections and to resolve the location of polling stations, allotment of voters to the ballot locations, whereabouts of counting centres, preparations to be made in and nearby polling stations and counting hubs and all associated matters.
- One of the most important functions of the Election Commission of India is to issue Electronic Photo Identity Cards for the voters and to organize the electoral rolls in an organized manner.
- To recognize political parties and assign election symbols to them, as well as to settle disputes about it, and to set campaign spending limitations for all political parties, as well as to monitor the same.
- To establish the Model Code of Conduct in the election for political parties and candidates so that no one engages in unfair practice or there is no authoritarian abuse of powers by those in authority.
- ISSUES WITH THE ELECTION COMMISSION
Although an independent constitutional body to supervise elections in India is vital, it is also necessary to specify the commission’s powers. The EC lacks the authority to dismiss candidates who engage in election misconduct. It may, at best, direct the lodging of a case.
The constitutional authority, power and protection provided to the Chief Election Commissioner must also be extended to the other commissioners.
- CHALLENGED FACED BY THE ELECTION COMMISSION
The Constitution makes no educational requirements for the position of member of the Election Commission of India. The terms of future appointment are not mentioned or defined since members of the Election Commission are not barred from working again after retiring or quitting. Unlike the Chief Election Commissioner, the Election commissioners are not constitutionally safeguarded in terms of their tenures and authorization.
Regular allegations are often put forward by the opposition claiming that The Election Commission favours the ruling party. Increasing violence and electoral wrongdoings under influence of money have eventuated in political criminalization and the Election Commission of India does not have the authority to arrest the wrongdoers for the same.
The role played by the ECI has rendered a very high level of assurance in the minds of Indian citizens in securing the integrity of the elected legislative bodies in the country. However, the grey areas in the legal domain must be redressed, so that ECI can ensure the proper functioning of the democracy by means of free and fair elections.
- POLITICS IN INDIAN DEMOCRACY
Way before India established itself as a nuclear, economic, agricultural and Information Technology major on the global platform, it is a vivid, proud and flourishing democracy. Fair and free elections are the most important need for a democratic system to function in the modern world. However, another important prerequisite of a democracy is a party system that fulfils the duties of gathering and summarising the different public concerns in society and wrapping them into an effective policy in a peaceful way.
This establishment, which was developed by our liberation warriors and Constitution-makers, has been nourished by the Parliament, courts, political parties, media, and, most importantly, the people of India, with some notable contributions from the Election Commission of India (ECI).
Despite various inhibitions, the founders of an independent India and Constitution makers opted for universal adult suffrage from the beginning, thus imposing conviction, assurance and wisdom in the hearts of Common Indian citizens to determine their own representative for the seat of authority.
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The preference of electoral democracy was diversely labelled: ‘a giant leap forward’, ‘a bold undertaking’, ‘an unparalleled venture’. In India, the emergence of leaders from underprivileged groups, such as farmers, women, and minorities, to head national and state administrations and other significant constitutional posts has been a direct result of electoral democracy.
Elections could be used to emphasize the ascending engagement of women, backward castes, tribal people, and economically excluded communities in Indian politics and governance and administration. Colonialism, nationalism, and democracy appear to have had exceedingly substantial prejudices on Indian politics.
Even after independence, the colonial, nationalist, and democratic interpretation of ‘the political’ is fundamental in comprehending Indian politics. Despite the fact that colonialism and nationalism are unquestionably antagonistic to each other there is no hesitation that colonialism aggravated the environment in which nationalism surfaced as an influential doctrine to vocalize the articulations of the colonized. Colonialism also paved the way for a long process of democratisation by gradually enlisting those who were favourably disposed toward foreign governance.
The introduction of adult suffrage altered Indian politics irreversibly. Democracy is thus no longer limited to voter involvement in elections; it is also defined in the “day-to-day struggle” in which individuals participate while enjoying their rights as citizens.
Political parties have played a fundamental role in effectuating social and political transfiguration, but the realm of parties has also experienced monumental change. The numerous and federal nature of India’s political structure successfully established itself in the decades following Independence.
Democratic politics has given parties a furthermore representational nature throughout time. This eventuated in two ways, many comprehensive and all-inclusive parties have pulled more and more parts of society into the domain of politics, offering a window of opportunity for all the citizens from the socially and educationally backward strata to seize leadership duties in party and administration.
India is a country rich in diversity, whether it’s geological deserts, mountains, grasslands, forests, islands, or coastal regions, or its multireligious, multicultural, multilingual, and multi-ethnic population. Meeting the demands of this contrasting diversity has been a significant problem for Indian democracy.
Political parties’ mediation role in bringing about this democratic shift in a moderately peaceful approach, in a brief period of time, and in circumstances instrumental to democratic growth cannot be underestimated.
- POLITICAL COMPETITION
The prompt surge in the efficacious number of parties, modifications in the relative potency of the national and regional parties and the political relations between them, the inadequacy of any one party to regulate the parliament, and the existence of diverse parties and different prototypes of party contention in states have all influenced the course of India’s democratisation and governance and ultimately transformed the dynamics of the Indian political system.
The ascent of regional parties to power in states, as well as their important participation in coalition administrations at the Centre, has moved state-level agendas and electoral possibilities into the national limelight. Several economists feel that in politics, competition is an effective method to enhance management and efficiency. Some argue that political competition is preferable to single-party domination because it pushes political parties to appeal to a broader range of voters and steers them away from special interest policies. Politicians are compelled to dedicate more effort to program implementation when the electoral outcome is unclear. It is also reputed that such competition offers new opportunities for vulnerable groups to determine who triumphs in elections.
With the developing politicization of the marginal segments of society, the elite-centric establishment is fleeting away with the amalgamation of people-centric administration. Moreover, the shifting socioeconomic composition of legislative assemblies and national legislatures is reflective of a trend toward truly comprehensive democracy. The alteration of political authorization at regular intervals through elections is an expressive affirmation of the profoundness of the democratic procedure, which is not enunciated in recurring elections.
- ADVANTAGES OF POLITICAL COMPETITION
Democratic politics has resulted in the expansion of the representational nature of political parties over time. Many parties that are comprehensive types in their contend and exercise have pulled out more and more sections of society into the domain of politics, given that pathways for the elites from the socially and academically backward classes to seize a leadership position in party and administration.
Elections will become meaningless if there is no competitiveness. Regular electoral rivalry provides motivations to political parties and leaders. They understand the fact that if they highlight concerns that people would like to see discussed, their reputation and possibilities of winning in the next election will strengthen. However, if they do not, please the common citizens with their efforts, they will be incompetent to win again.
As an outcome, it encourages the political parties and leaders to do better. Political competition illuminates people concerning elections and democratic ideals, and during the electoral competition, people may determine which party to vote for.
- DISADVANTAGES OF POLITICAL COMPETITION
The democratic process has an inherent capacity not just to bring differences to light and polarise people, but also to promote moderation, convincing and pushing individuals and social groupings to progressively shift away from extreme stances on problems and policies. In the concluding analysis, the latter would triumph over the former. If that does not happen, democracy collapse. Such a procedure can be tortuous and sometimes disheartening. Participation in elections, the necessity to build wide electoral aid and experience of governmental power tend to make the tendency of political parties to assert moderation in electoral politics to begin their extremist agenda from left to right.
- CASTE AND POLITICS
Regionalists have reinvented not just the shape of Indian politics, but also its language, by bringing individuals from India’s peripheral in terms of religion, elite caste position, or geographical distance from the centre.
The inadequacies of a coherent nationalist ideology may also be seen in the fact that the political parties who pioneered the fight for Hindu consolidation are now marginal in contemporary India. The relative fall of nationalist ideology may be mirrored by the growth of the “regionalists,” who appeared to benefit much from the increased public participation in political processes.
The caste factor is an essential element of the Indian political system. There are several caste-based political parties in India, each attempting to promote and preserve the interests of a certain caste. The regional political parties, in particular, stand predominantly influenced by the caste factor. The caste issue has a strong impact on regional political parties in general.
Various caste groups have pledged their commitment to political parties and ideas. An Indian individual receives a caste at birth and grows up as a member of a certain caste group. A citizen is inherently influenced by caste groupings and casteism in the process of developing political orientations, sentiments, and opinions. Their socialisation and, as a result, their political thinking, conscience, and involvement are influenced by caste ideals and interests.
In India, caste is a significant influence on parliamentary politics. Political parties consider the cast of contenders and the cast of voters in each constituency when nominating candidates for various seats. In Indian politics, caste serves as both a separating and unifying factor. It serves as the foundation for the formation of numerous interest groups, each of which fights for power with the others.
- FACTORS INFLUENCING VOTING TRENDS IN INDIAN ELECTIONS
Several factors impact voter behaviour, including religion, caste, community, language, money, policy or philosophy, polling purpose, franchise length, and so on. These factors are used by political parties and organizations in order to win the war of the vote box. Despite professing to be proponents of enlightened secularism, politicians can be seen appealing to people’s religious and communal feelings; they can also be found using variables such as language or money to achieve their goal of winning the vote war.
For the same reason, appeals are made and canvassing campaigns are held in the name of a specific programme or philosophy. The nature or aim of the elections, as well as the scope of the suffrage, impact voters’ interests and, as a result, their voting patterns. General concerns are more important to voters than individual problems. The voter’s perspective toward the candidate’s personal traits is referred to as candidate orientation.
- Caste: In India, caste remains to be a significant factor in voting behaviour. It has deep societal origins and serves as a vital foundation for social connections at all levels.
- Religion: The emergence of a secular state in India by assuring everyone the right to religious freedom, treating all religions equally, and refusing to recognize any religion as a state religion has not been beneficial in controlling religion from playing a role as a determining factor of political behaviour in general, and voting behaviour patterns in specific.
- Language: India is a multilingual country. Language is also a very vital factor that plays an important role in voting behaviour. The linguistic structure of states clearly highlights the importance of language as a political issue in India.
- Local Issues: Voters’ choices are always influenced by local concerns. A regional or local party will constantly try to identify with local concerns in order to get popular local acceptance.
- Illiteracy: Another element influencing voting behaviour in India has been widespread illiteracy. Because of this vulnerability of the population, political parties, sectarian organizations, and militant outfits are able to exploit the feelings of the illiterate voters, which comprise a significant proportion of the votes polled and therefore play a significant influence in influencing the results of elections.
This review of Indian political parties includes insights not only for studying Indian politics but also for studying democratic politics in general. India is the world’s largest democracy, and Indians make up almost half of those who live in what Freedom House considers to be “free” countries.
Concerns were raised in the decades following independence that India would not be able to endure as a democracy due to its high rates of corruption, illiteracy, and heterogeneity. In the 1970s and 1980s, political researchers and spectators pronounced apprehensiveness about the sustainability of democratically elected governments: they saw an enormous break between the requirements made on the system by the population who presume the government to take consideration of their well-being, and the capability of the system to meet the escalation of these needs and objectives. In this regard, the growth of anticipations among the population and the democrat policies of the parties made India unmanageable.
With the implementation of liberalisation beliefs in the early 1990s, the topic of governance took centre stage in political discussion as well as academic study, with an emphasis on the interconnections between democracy, administration, and political parties.
Democracy may be defined as an institutional structure that guarantees and supports liberty, equality, justice, and human dignity. This must be accomplished by ongoing civic involvement in public affairs. It should also furnish for the contentment of citizens, including education and essential needs so that citizens can substantially contribute in public affairs.
Democracy is a political structure in which leaders are chosen; in the modern world, this equates to selecting a ruling party or ruling coalition from among the competing parties and unions. Thus, parties are the organisations that carry out the purpose of democratically elected leaders, namely governance. It is consequently critical that parties offer administration with the goal of fostering democracy and civic well-being. However, in recent years, political leaders and politics have sought to divide people rather than unite them as a nation.
Indian parties are institutionally weak, as seen by the numerous breakdowns and merging, as well as the establishment of new ones. Moreover, as seen by the increased levels of electoral instability, voters tend to migrate from one party to another. As a result, in order to maximize political support, politicians have increasingly relied on monetary incentives to complement payments from government services.
India holds elections on a frequent basis, opponents leave positions of authority with the promise of a battle in the next election, and more politicians from marginalised people have ascended to prominence. This democratic system of electoral politics assures that anytime a political party or leader fails to meet the expectations of common citizens, or fails to keep pledges and assurances made by them, they will lose their power, position and authority.
- Political competition for the greater good? Available at https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/political-competition-for-the-greater-good/ (last visited on June 13, 2021)
- Election Commission of India (EIC) available at https://cleartax.in/s/election-commission-india-eic (last visited on 10 June, 2021)
- The Constitution of India, art. 324
- Controversies associated with the Election Commission available at https://www.civilsdaily.com/controversies-associated-with-election-commission/ (last visited on June 10, 2021)
- Election Commission of India available at https://byjus.com/free-ias-prep/election-commission-of-india/ (last visited on June 10, 2021)
- Elections in India: One billion people and democracy available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/327152717_Elections_in_India_One_Billion_People_and_Democracy (last visited on June 14, 2021)
- Democracy, Governance and Political Parties in India: An Introduction available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/303029513_Democracy_Governance_and_Political_Parties_in_India_An_Introduction (last visited on June 15, 2021)
- Measuring Voting Behaviour in India available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/304607354_Measuring_Voting_Behaviour_in_India (last visited on June 16, 2021)
 Election Commission of India (EIC) available at https://cleartax.in/s/election-commission-india-eic (last visited on 10 June, 2021)
 The Constitution of India, art. 324
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Author: Shuchita Pandey, Vivekananda School of Law and Legal Studies
Editor: Kanishka Vaish, Senior Editor, LexLife India.