Elections in India and their stages
Being the largest democracy in the world, the process of Parliamentary elections in India is really a gigantic affair. 714 million voters, 828,804 polling stations, 545 parliamentary seats, 1.3 million electronic voting machines and a declared expenditure of about $250 millions make the general elections of India a fascinating fair of Democracy. But the steps to this Herculean process are equally complex and challenging. The general elections in India take place in the following few steps.
1.Fixing of dates- The Election Commission of India fixes and announces the dates of the general elections depending on the tentative declaration by the ruling party. The Election Commission consults with the President of India in doing so.
2.Selection of Candidates- The various political parties and political alliances declare suitable candidates for various seats.
3.Nomination- The candidates under some political parties or independent parties register their names before the Election Commission of India to contest elections from a particular seat, by depositing some money called the security deposit.
4.Verification of Nomination- During the verification period, all the information that the candidate provides is verified. If any information is found to be wrong, the registration is canceled. There is also a provision for withdrawal of names. A particular day is prescribed to the candidates for getting their security deposit refunded.
5.Election Campaign- There are 3 types of campaigns Door to door campaign, Street campaign, campaign through banners and posters. During the campaign, the parties and the candidates publish election manifestos. Election manifesto is the book containing the programmers and policies of that political party. The election manifesto also contains some promises these parties intend to fulfill once they come into power. The Election Commission declares a set of codes of conduct, which are some rules and regulations expected to be followed by various candidates. Some major points in the code of conduct are-
i)Candidates are not permitted to bribe or threaten the people.
ii)No candidates are allowed to ask for votes in the name of religion or caste.
iii)No candidates are permitted to campaign in places of worship.
iv)No candidates are allowed to use resources of the government and government vehicles to campaign.
v)No candidate is allowed to spend more than 25 lakh rupees for campaigning in Lok Sabha elections and not more than 10 lakh rupees in state elections.
vi)Once the dates are announced, no minister is allowed to start a project until the elections are completed.
6.Polling- Polling day is generally declared as holiday, so that all voters can caste their respective votes. There is a rule that if any institute is not declaring holiday, it must make special arrangements for its workers to caste their votes. Polling starts from 11am and goes on till 5pm with no break. Voters can caste their votes by pressing the buttons on the voting machine respective of the candidate they want to vote for. At 5pm sharp the officials from Election Commission seal the electronic voting machines in presence of the representatives of representatives of respective political parties. After this, all the machines are packed off and sent under high security and vigil to the office of the Election commission.
7.Counting and Declaration- The Election officers opens the machines in the presence of representatives of political parties to count votes. The data from the voting machines is interpreted and counted for particular constituencies. The candidate getting the maximum votes in a particular constituency is declared elected from that constituency. The data of all the constituencies is analyzed and the political party or political alliance with majority (50%+1) of the constituencies is eligible to form the government after declaring its majority in front of the President of India. If no majority emerges, this is a case of hung Parliament and there is a provision of re-election if a deadlock scenario arises.
Conducting elections and announcing the results is a laborious work and needs a large work force and security personnel. Planning and execution is very important and anything can happen any time and must be prepared for the worst. Elections to assemblies in 5 states are scheduled to be held in April-May 2011 and political parties are busy with the work of finalising alliance, selection of candidates, preparation of manifestos and canvassing for votes.