Elections in India

For the most recent general election, see Indian general election, 2014.

India has an asymmetric federal government, with elected officials at the federal, state and local levels. At the national level, the head of government, Prime Minister, is elected by members of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the parliament of India.[1] The elections are conducted by the Election Commission of India. All members of the Lok Sabha, except two who can be nominated by the President of India, are directly elected through general elections which take place every five years, in normal circumstances, by universal adult suffrage and a first-past-the-post system.[2] Members of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament, are elected by elected members of the legislative assemblies of the states and the Electoral college for the Union Territories of India.[3]

The 2014 general election involved an electorate of 863,500,000 people (larger than both EU and US elections combined).[4][5] Declared expenditure has trebled since 1989 to almost $300 million, using more than one million electronic voting machines.[6] The size of the huge electorate mandates that elections be conducted in a number of phases (there were nine phases in the 2014 general election). It involves a number of step-by-step processes from announcement of election dates to the announcement of results paving the way for the formation of the new government.

Indian electoral system

The Parliament of India comprises the head of state and the two houses which are the legislature. The President of India is elected for a five-year term by an electoral college consisting of members of federal legislature and state legislatures.This is the election process of India.

The House of the People (Lok Sabha) represents citizens of India (as envisaged by the Constitution of India, currently the members of Lok Sabha are 545, out of which 543 are elected for five-year term and two members represent the Anglo-Indian community). The 545 members are elected under the plurality ('first past the post') electoral system.[7] The Council of States (Rajya Sabha) has 245 members, 233 members elected for a six-year term, with one-third retiring every two years. The members are indirectly elected, this being achieved by the votes of legislators in the state and union (federal) territories. The elected members are chosen under the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote. The twelve nominated members are usually an eclectic mix of eminent artists (including actors), scientists, jurists, sportspersons, businessmen and journalists and common people.[3]

History of Lok Sabha elections

Lok Sabha is composed of representatives of the people chosen by direct election on the basis of the adult suffrage. The maximum strength of the House envisaged by the Constitution is 552, which is made up by election of up to 500 members to represent the States, up to 20 members to represent the Union Territories and not more than two members of the Anglo-Indian Community to be nominated by the President, if, in his/ her opinion, that community is not adequately represented in the lower house,Lok Sabha. In 1952 Lok Sabha Elections there were 1874 candidates, which rose to 13952 candidates in 1996. However, in 2009 Lok Sabha Elections only 8070 candidates contested.[8] Historical share of seats and votes of major political parties are ranked by the number of seats won.[9]

First Second Third
Year Election Total seats Party Seats % votes Party Seats % votes Party Seats % votes
1951-52 [10][11][12] 1st Lok Sabha 489 INC 364 44.99% CPI 16 3.29% SOC 12 10.59%
1957 [13] 2nd Lok Sabha 494 INC 371 47.78% CPI 27 8.92% PSP 19 10.41%
1962 3rd Lok Sabha 494 INC 361 44.72% CPI 29 9.94% SWA 18 7.89%
1967 4th Lok Sabha 520 INC 283 40.78% SWA 44 8.67% BJS 35 9.31%
1971 5th Lok Sabha 518 INC 352 43.68% CPM 25 5.12% CPI 23 4.73%
1977 6th Lok Sabha 542 BLD 295 41.32% INC 154 34.52% CPM 22 4.29%
1980 7th Lok Sabha 529 ( 542* ) INC(I) 351 42.69% JNP(S) 41 9.39% CPM 37 6.24%
1984 8th Lok Sabha 514 INC 404 49.01% TDP 30 4.31% CPM 22 5.87%
1989 9th Lok Sabha 529 INC 197 39.53% JD 143 17.79% BJP 85 11.36%
1991 10th Lok Sabha 521 INC 232 36.26% BJP 120 20.11% JD 59 11.84%
1996 11th Lok Sabha 543 BJP 161 20.29% INC 140 28.80% JD 46 23.45%
1998 12th Lok Sabha 543 BJP 182 25.59% INC 141 25.82% CPM 32 5.16%
1999 13th Lok Sabha 543 BJP 182 23.75% INC 114 28.30% CPM 33 5.40%
2004 14th Lok Sabha 543 INC 145 26.53% BJP 138 22.16% CPM 43 5.66%
2009 15th Lok Sabha 543 INC 206 28.55% BJP 116 18.80% SP 23 3.23%
2014 16th Lok Sabha 543 BJP 282 31.34% INC 44 19.52% AIADMK 37 3.31%

* : 12 seats in Assam and 1 in Meghalaya did not vote.[14]

Indian political parties

Indian National Congress dominated the Indian political scene under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru from the independence in 1947 until his death in 1964. The party continued its dominance under the leadership of K Kamaraj and Lal Bahadur Shastri. The Congress party was split into two in the 1970s and Indira Gandhi led Congress (I) to election victory. But the winning run was broken for the first time in 1977, with the defeat of the party led by Indira Gandhi, by an unlikely coalition of all the major other parties, which protested against the imposition of a controversial emergency from 1975–1977. But, Indira Gandhi regained power soon after and her son Rajiv Gandhi led the party after her assassination. A coalition led by VP Singh swept to power in 1989 in the wake of major allegations of corruption against then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi. But the coalition lost steam in 1990 necessitating new elections with the congress party again emerging victorious under the leadership of P V Narasimha Rao.

In 1996, the election results led to a coalition system wherein no single party achieved a majority in the Parliament to form a government, but rather has to depend on a process of coalition building with other parties to form a block and claim a majority to be invited to form the government. This has been a consequence of strong regional parties which ride on the back of regional aspirations. There were multiple governments within a span of few years led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, I K Gujral and H D Deve Gowda.

In 1999, National Democratic Alliance led by the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power and became the first coalition government to complete the full term. For the next decade, congress led coalition United Progressive Alliance formed the government under Manmohan Singh. In the recent elections held in 2014, the National Democratic Alliance led by the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power with Bharatiya Janata Party achieving a simple majority on its own by securing 282 seats. Narendra Modi, the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate, is now serving his first term as the Prime Minister of India.

While parties like the Telugu Desam Party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam have traditionally been strong regional contenders, the 1990s saw the emergence of other regional players such as Indian National Lok Dal, Shiromani Akali Dal, Shiv Sena, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Janata Dal. These parties are traditionally based on regional aspirations like Telangana Rashtra Samithi and Shiv Sena or strongly influenced by caste considerations like Bahujan Samaj Party which claims to represent the Dalits.

Election Commission

The Election Commission of India is an autonomous, constitutionally established federal authority responsible for administering all the electoral processes in the Republic of India. Under the supervision of the commission, free and fair elections have been held in India at regular intervals as per the principles enshrined in the Constitution. The Election Commission has the power of superintendence, direction and control of all elections to the Parliament of India and the state legislatures and of elections to the office of the President of India and the Vice-President of India.[15] Elections are conducted according to the constitutional provisions, supplemented by laws made by Parliament. The major laws are Representation of the People Act, 1950, which mainly deals with the preparation and revision of electoral rolls, the Representation of the People Act, 1951 which deals, in detail, with all aspects of conduct of elections and post election disputes. The Supreme Court of India has held that where the enacted laws are silent or make insufficient provision to deal with a given situation in the conduct of elections, the Election Commission has the residuary powers under the Constitution to act in an appropriate manner. Originally the commission had only a single Chief Election Commissioner. Two additional Commissioners were appointed to the commission for the first time on 16 October 1989, but they had a very short tenure until 1 January 1990. The Election Commissioner Amendment Act, 1993 made the Election Commission a multi-member body. Later, on 1 October 1993, two additional Election Commissioners were appointed. The concept of a multi-member Commission has been in operation since then, with decision-making power by majority vote.

Electoral process: Electoral Process in India starts with the declaration of dates by the election commission. Publishing of electoral rolls is a key process that happens before the elections and is vital for the conduct of elections in India. The Indian Constitution sets the eligibility of an individual for voting as any person who is a citizen of India and above 18 years of age. It is the responsibility of the eligible voters to enroll their names. The model code of conduct comes in force from the day the dates are announced.

The candidates are required to file the nomination papers following which the candidate list is published after scrutiny. No party is allowed to use the government resources for campaigning. No party is allowed to bribe the candidates before elections. The government cannot start a project during the election period. The campaigning ends at 6:00 pm of the second last day before the polling day.

The polling is held normally from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm, whereas it might be changed under special circumstances. The Collector of each district is in charge of polling. Government employees are employed as poll officers at the polling stations. Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are being increasingly used instead of ballot boxes to prevent election fraud via booth capturing, which is heavily prevalent in certain parts of India. An indelible ink is applied usually on the left index finger of the voter as an indicator that the voter has cast his vote. This practice has been followed since the 1962 general elections to prevent a bad vote. Re-polling happens if the initial polling is unsuccessful due to reasons such as adverse weather, violence etc. The polled votes are counted to announce the winner. India follows first past the post methodology to declare the winner.

Indelible Ink

One of the earliest achievements of CSIR (Council of Scientific & Industrial Research), was to counter the challenge of fraudulent voting that research work on formulating indelible ink was initiated. Founding father of Indeliable Ink Dr. M. L. Goel and his team of Scientists in 1950's started Chemical Division, NPL (National Physical Laboratory) now called the Analytical Chemistry Section.

As the ink is photo-sensitive, it needs to be protected from exposure to direct sun rays. Therefore, amber-coloured plastic containers are used for storing the ink, which in earlier times was stored in brown-coloured glass bottles. On application, the ink remains on the fingernail for at least two days, to even up to a month depending upon the person's body temperature and the environment. The ink contains silver nitrate, which on exposure to UV light gets darker.

The precise protocol for making this ink including chemical composition and the quantity of each constituent is not known to many people, though the basic chemical formula of this ink has not been altered since 1952.

Government expenditure

The cost per voter in the 2014 general elections was Rs 17, a twenty-fold increase over the first election, held in 1952. The total expenditure for the 2014 general election was 37.5 crore.[16]

Modern Elections

Electronic voting machines

Balloting Unit (left), control unit (right)

Electronic voting machines (EVM) are being used in Indian general and state elections to implement electronic voting in part from 1999 elections and in total since 2004 elections. The EVMs reduce the time in both casting a vote and declaring the results compared to the old paper ballot system. After rulings of Delhi High Court and Supreme Court and demands from various political parties, Election Commission decided to introduce EVMs with Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT)system.

Voter verifiable paper audit trail system

On 14 August 2013, the Government of India amended the elections rules to permit the use of the Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) system. The first election to implement the new system was a by-election held in the 51 Noksen (Assembly Constituency) of Nagaland.[17] Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) system is introduced in 8 of 543 parliamentary constituencies as a pilot project in Indian general election, 2014.[18][19][20][21] VVPAT is implemented in Lucknow, Gandhinagar, Bangalore South, Chennai Central, Jadavpur, Raipur, Patna Sahib and Mizoram constituencies.[22][23][24][25][26][27] Generated slip tells voter to which party or candidate vote has been given and also includes name of voter, constituency and polling booth.[28][29][30][31][32]


"None of the above" is a proposed voting option in India that would allow voters who support none of the candidates available to them to register an official vote of "none of the above", which is currently allowed under India election regulation.[33] The Election Commission of India told the Supreme Court in 2009 that it wished to offer the voter a None of the above button on voting machines; the government, however, has generally opposed this option.[34] On 27 September 2013, Supreme Court of India pronounced a judgement that citizen's of India have Right to Negative Vote by exercising None of the above (NOTA) option in EVMs and ballot papers. The judgment was passed on a PIL filed by the People's Union for Civil Liberties, an NGO in 2009.[35][36][37]

The Election Commission has implemented this option of "none of the above" voting option in EVM machines w.e.f.five states polls starting from November 2013. However it does not mean that if 'NOTA' gets highest votes the election will be conducted again, rather even in that case, the candidate with the highest votes will be treated as elected candidate.[33]

Absentee voting

An absentee ballot is a vote cast by someone who is unable or unwilling to attend the official polling station or to which the voter is normally allocated. Numerous methods have been devised to facilitate this. Increasing the ease of access to absentee ballots is seen by many as one way to improve voter turnout, though some countries require that a valid reason, such as infirmity or travel, be given before a voter can participate in an absentee ballot.Currently, India does not have an absentee ballot system for all citizens except in few exceptions.[34][35][36] Section 19 of The Representation of the People Act (RPA)-1950[37] allows a person to register to vote if he or she is above 18 years of age and is an 'ordinary resident' of the residing constituency i.e. living at the current address for 6 months or longer. Section 20 of the above Act disqualifies a non-resident Indian (NRI) from getting his/her name registered in the electoral rolls. Consequently, it also prevents a NRI from casting his/her vote in elections to the Parliament and to the State Legislatures. In August 2010, Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill-2010 which allows voting rights to NRI's was passed in both Lok Sabha with subsequent gazette notifications on 24 November 2010.[38] With this NRI's will now be able to vote in Indian elections but have to be physically present at the time of voting. Several civic society organisations have urged the government to amend the RPA act to allow NRI's and people on the move to cast their vote through absentee ballot system.[39][40] People for Lok Satta has been actively pushing combination of internet and postal ballot as a viable means for NRI voting.[41]

See also


  1. Basu, Durga D. (2009). "11". Introduction to the Constitution of India. Nagpur, India: LexisNexis Butterworths Wadhwa Nagpur. p. 199. ISBN 9788180385599.
  2. "Lok Sabha: Introduction". parliamentofindia.nic.in. Retrieved 19 August 2011.
  3. 1 2 Rajya Sabha Secretariat. "Council of States (Rajya Sabha)". The national portal of India. Parliament of India. Retrieved 26 May 2012.
  4. Shashi Tharoor (16 April 2009). "The recurring miracle of Indian democracy". New Straits Times.
  5. "Number of registered voters in India". news.biharprabha.com. Retrieved 23 February 2014.
  6. Indian General Election Expenditure, from ECI website accessed 14 May 2006. Archived 20 April 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. Lok Sabha Secretariat. "Lok Sabha". Parliament of India. Retrieved 26 May 2012.
  8. "Lok Sabha Election Facts: Candidate Seat Ratio increased from 4 in 1952 to 25 in 1996". news.biharprabha.com. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
  9. "Statistical Reports of Lok Sabha Elections". Election Commission of India. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  10. "Lok Sabha Results 1951-52". Election Commission of India. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  11. "Statistical Report on Lok Sabha Elections 1951-52" (PDF). Election Commission of India. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  12. "Lok Sabha Elections Stats Summary 1951-52" (PDF). Election Commission of India. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  13. "Statistical Report on Lok Sabha Elections 1957". Election Commission of India.
  14. "Seventh Lok Sabha elections (1980)". Indian Express. Indian Express. March 14, 2014. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  15. "A Constitutional Body". Election Commission of India.
  16. "Election Expenditure per elector up by twenty times in 2009 compared to first General Elections". PIB. 11 March 2014. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  17. "EC Decides to use VVPAT System at Bye-Election in Nagaland" (Press release). Press Information Bureau. 17 August 2013. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
  18. "EVM-paper trail introduced in 8 of 543 constituencies". dna. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  19. Press Trust of India (29 April 2014). "LS polls: Voters to get 'automated-receipts' at Gandhinagar". Business-standard.com. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  20. Staff Reporter. "VVPAT machine to be on demonstration for 10 days". The Hindu. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  21. "VVPAT to be introduced in Jadavpur constituency". Indiatvnews.com. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  22. "VVPAT, a revolutionary step in voting transparency". DNA. 27 April 2014. Retrieved 2014-04-27.
  23. Patna Sahib electorate can see who they voted for - The Times of India
  24. 400 EVMs on standby for Patna Sahib, Pataliputra
  25. "VVPAT to Debut in B'lore South". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  26. T. Ramakrishnan. "Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail system comes to Chennai". The Hindu. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  27. "Not many were aware of VVPAT, but were happy with verification". The Hindu. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  28. "Safe distance". The Indian Express. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  29. "As smooth as it gets, says city poll chief". The Times of India. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  30. Ripon Buildings turns nerve centre of electoral activities in Chennai
  31. "Voter's verifiable paper audit trail system to be introduced in Chennai Central constituency". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 1 April 2014. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
  32. "ELECTION COMMISSION OF INDIA : Press release" (PDF). Eci.nic.in. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  33. "Who can vote by postal ballot?". The Economic Times. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  34. "Election Commission to ensure postal votes don't get invalid". dna. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  35. "Pranab to become first president to cast vote via postal ballot". Oneindia.com. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  36. "Representation of the People Act-1950" (PDF). Lawin.nic.in. Retrieved 2012-08-06.
  37. "gazette notifications". Thehindu.com. 24 November 2010. Retrieved 2012-08-06.
  38. "Petition for Absentee Voting in Indian Elections". Voterswithoutborders.org. Retrieved 2012-08-06.
  39. "Non-Resident Indians Voting rights in the upcoming general elections". Tanushreebagrodia.blogspot.com. 8 December 2008. Retrieved 2012-08-06.
  40. "People for Lok Satta- NRI voting campaign". Nrivotingrights.info. 9 January 2011. Retrieved 2012-08-06.
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