India is the largest democratic country in the world, with a federal system of governance. Democracy is a system of government by all the eligible members of a state, through elected representatives. The term "federalism" is used to describe a system of government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and constituent political units (such as states or provinces).
Parliamentary system of India :
The Parliament of India, also known as Sansad is the supreme legislative body in India. The Parliament comprises the President of India and the two Houses—Lok Sabha (House of the People) and Rajya Sabha (Council of States).
Those elected or nominated (by the President) to either house of Parliament are referred to as members of parliament or MPs. The MPs of Rajya Sabha are elected by the members of the State Legislative Assemblies, in accordance with proportional representation. At present there are 233 members in Rajya Sabha and also twelve members nominated by the President as representatives of literature, science, art and social services.
All members of Lok Sabha except two, (two members of the Anglo-Indian Community nominated by president of India) are directly elected through general elections which takes place every five years, in normal circumstances. Prime Minister is the head of government at the national level and is elected by the members of Lok Sabha.
Election Commission of India:
The Election Commission of India is an autonomous, constitutionally established authority responsible for administering all the electoral processes in the Republic of India. The Election Commission prepares, maintains and periodically updates the Electoral Roll, which shows who are entitled to vote, supervises the nomination of candidates, registers political parties and monitors the election campaign. It also facilitates the coverage of the election process by the media, organises the polling booths where voting takes place, and looks after the counting of votes and the declaration of results.
A general election is a process in which all or most members of a given political body are chosen by eligible memebers. In parliametary system the election is normally held every 5 years.The General election to constitute the 16th Lok Sabha in India is scheduled from 7 April to 12 May 2014.
According to the commission electoral strength in 2014 is 81.45 crores. Election is scheduled in all 543 parliamentary constituencies. The result of this election will be declared on 16 May 14. Election cost to government is expected to be Rs. 3,500 crores while parties are expected to spend Rs. 30,500 crores.
General Election Process:
The entire process consists of
Division of the country into different constituencies
Preparation of voters list
Nomination of Candidates,
Counting of votes.
· The country has been divided into 543 Parliamentary Constituencies, based on population, geographies and the boundaries of the states and administrative areas.
· The Constitution puts a limit 550 elected members, apart from two nominated representatives of the Anglo-Indian community. There are also provisions for reserved constituencies to ensure the representation of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
· Any citizen of sound mind and over the age of 18 can vote irrespective of caste, creed, religion or gender.
· The electoral roll, list of all people in the constituency who are registered to vote, is normally revised every year to add the names of those who turn 18 on the 1st January of that year.
· The process of providing photo identity cards to all voters are under progress.
· Any Indian citizen who is registered as a voter and is over 25 years of age is allowed to contest elections to the Lok Sabha or State Legislative Assemblies.
· Every candidate has to make a deposit of Rs. 10,000/- for Lok Sabha election, except for candidates from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. They pay half of these amounts. The deposit is returned if the candidate receives more than one-sixth of the total number of valid votes polled in the constituency.
· Nominations must be supported at least by one registered elector of the constituency, in the case of a candidate sponsored by a registered Party and by ten registered electors from the constituency in the case of other candidates.
· Returning Officers, appointed by the Election Commission, are put in charge to receive nominations of candidates in each constituency, and oversee the formalities of the election.
· Candidates are given a week to put forward their nominations. These are scrutinised by the Returning Officers and if not found to be in order can be rejected after a summary hearing. Validly nominated candidates can withdraw within two days after nominations have been scrutinised.
· After this, a list of competing candidates is prepared by the Returning Officer, and ballot papers are printed. Ballot papers are printed with the names of the candidates (in languages set by the Election Commission) and the symbols allotted to each of the candidates. Candidates of recognised Parties are allotted their Party symbols.
· Once an election has been called, parties issue manifestos detailing the programmes they wish to implement if elected to government, the strengths of their leaders etc. The campaign is the period when the political parties declare the candidates, put forward their programmes and seek the vote of electorate. The official campaign lasts at least two weeks from the drawing up of the list of nominated candidates, and officially ends 48 hours before polling closes.
· During the election campaign the political parties and candidates are to abide by Model Code of Conduct evolved by the Election Commission, which lays down broad guidelines as to how the political parties and candidates should conduct themselves during the election campaign.
· Polling is the process of casting votes and is held on a number of different days in different constituencies, based on the declarations made by the commission.
· Voting is by secret ballot. Polling booths are set up in public institutions, like schools and community halls. Each polling station is open for at least 8 hours on the day of the election.
Queue to cast vote
· On entering the polling station, the elector is checked against the Electoral Roll, and allocated a ballot paper. The elector votes by marking the ballot paper with a rubber stamp on or near the symbol of the candidate of his choice, inside a screened compartment in the polling station. The voter then folds the ballot paper and inserts it in a common ballot box which is kept in full view of the Presiding Officer and polling agents of the candidates. Now India has switched over to electronic voting machines. Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) retains all the characteristics of voting by ballot papers. EVM saves considerable time, money and manpower.
· Political parties have to be registered with the Election Commission. Parties are expected to hold organisational elections and have a written constitution.
· Recognition offers privileges like right to access to electoral rolls , time for political broadcasts on the state-owned television and radio stations and party symbol . National parties are given a symbol that is for their exclusive use throughout the country.
· Limits are stipulated on the amount of money a candidate can spend during the election campaign.
· Any voter or candidate can file an election petition in case of any malpractice during the election.
· Observers are appointed by commission to ensure that the campaign is conducted fairly, and people are free to vote. They keep track on the amount that each candidate and party spends on the election.
· Once polling is over, counting of votes takes place on the pre-determined date. The Returning Officer declares the name of the candidate who gathered majority of the votes as the winner,. The winner gets the right to represent the constituency.
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