Chapter 3. Electoral Politics

• A mechanism by which people can choose their representatives at regular intervals and change them is known as Election. Therefore, elections are considered essential for any Representative Democracy.
• In an election, voters make many choices, like who will make laws for them, who will form government and take major decisions, whose policies will guide government and law-making.
• Elections are about political competition. This competition takes place among political parties.

Elections in India
• Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha [Legislative Assembly] elections are held regularly after every five years. After five years term of all elected representatives comes to an end. Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha stands ‘dissolved’.
• Elections are held in all constituencies at same time, either on same day or within a few days. It is known as a general election.
• Sometimes an election is held only for one constituency to fill vacancy caused by death or resignation of a member. It is known as a by-election.

Election Commission
• elections in our country are conducted by an independent and very powerful Election Commission [EC]. It enjoys same kind of independence that judiciary enjoys.
• Chief Election Commissioner [CEC] is appointed by President of India. But once appointed, Chief Election Commissioner is not answerable to President or government.
Powers of Election Commission are:
• It makes decisions about every part of how elections are run and controlled, from announcing elections to announcing results. It makes sure that Code of Conduct is followed and punishes any candidate or party that doesn’t follow it. It can tell government to follow certain rules during election time, to stop government from using or misusing its power to help it win elections, or to move some government officials.
• When on election duty, government officers work under control of EC and not government.
• When election officials come to opinion that polling was not fair in some booths or even an entire constituency, they order a repoll.
Code of Conduct: A set of norms and guidelines to be followed by political parties and contesting candidates during election time.
Constituency: Voters in a geographical area who elect a representative to legislative bodies.

Electoral Constituencies
• country is divided into different areas for elections. These areas are known as electoral constituencies. voters who live in an area elect one representative.
• For Lok Sabha elections, country is divided into 543 constituencies. representative elected from each constituency is known as a Member of Parliament or an MP.
• Each state is divided into a specific number of Assembly constituencies. In this case, elected representative is known as Member of Legislative Assembly or an MLA.
• In Panchayat and Municipal elections, each village or town is divided into several wards that are like constituencies. Each ward elects one member of village or urban local body.
• Some constituencies are reserved for people who belong to Scheduled Castes [SC] and Scheduled Tribes [ST].
• In an SC reserved constituency, only someone who belongs to Scheduled Castes can stand for election, and in an ST reserved constituency only those belonging to Scheduled Tribes can contest an election.
• Seats in rural [panchayat] and urban [municipalities and corporations] local bodies are now reserved for Other Backward Classes [OBC].
• One-third of seats are reserved in rural and urban local bodies for women candidates.
• list of those who are eligible to vote is prepared and given to everyone. This list is known as Electoral Roll and is commonly called Voters’ List.

Nomination of Candidates
• Anyone who can be a voter can become a candidate in elections. only difference is that to be a candidate minimum age is 25 years, while it is only 18 years for being a voter. Political parties nominate their candidates who get party symbol and support. Party’s nomination is often known as a party ticket.
• Every person who wishes to contest an election has to fill a ‘nomination form’ and give some money as a ‘security deposit’.
• A new system of declaration has been introduced on direction from Supreme Court. Every candidate has to make a legal declaration, giving full details of:
• Serious criminal cases pending against candidate;
• Details of assets and liabilities of candidate and his or her family; and
• Educational qualifications of candidate.
• This information has to be made public. This provides an opportunity for voters to make their decision on basis of information provided by candidates.

Election Campaign
• Election campaigns in our country take place for a two-week period between announcement of final list of candidates and date of polling.
• In this period candidates contact their voters, political leaders address election meetings and political parties mobilise their supporters.
• In election campaigns, political parties try to focus public attention on some big issues. They want to attract public to that issue and get them to vote for their party on that basis.
• According to our election law, no party or candidate can:
• Bribe or threaten voters;
• Appeal to people in name of caste or religion;
• Use government resources for election campaigns; and
• Recently, expenditure limit for candidates for Lok Sabha constituencies was increased from ` 54 lakh-` 70 lakh [depending on states] to ` 70 lakh-` 95 lakh, by Election Commission of India [ECI].
• Further, spending limit for State Assembly constituencies was hiked from ` 20 lakh-` 28 lakh to ` 28 lakh- ` 40 lakh [depending on states].
• All political parties in our country have agreed to a Model Code of Conduct for election campaigns. According to this, no party or candidate can:
• Use any place of worship for election propaganda;
• Use government vehicles, aircraft, & officials for elections; and
• Once elections are announced, Ministers shall not lay foundation stones of any projects, take any big policy decisions or make any promises of providing public facilities.

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