Electoral Politics – An election is a way by which people can choose their candidate or their preferences in a representative democracy or other forms of government. Most democratic countries hold new elections for their national legislature every few years. What elections do is select representatives for the local areas or the areas in which they work.
In this topic, we will look at how these representatives are elected. We begin by understanding why elections are necessary and useful in a democracy. We try to understand how electoral competition among parties serves the people. We then go on to ask what makes an election democratic. The basic idea here is to distinguish democratic elections from non-democratic elections.
The rest of the chapter tries to assess elections in India in the light of this yardstick. We take a look at each stage of elections, from the drawing of boundaries of different constituencies to the declaration of results. At each stage, we ask what should happen and what does happen in elections. Towards the end of the chapter, we turn to an assessment of whether elections in India are free and fair. Here we also examine the role of the Election Commission in assuring free and fair elections.
The time is after midnight. An expectant crowd sitting for the past five hours in a chowk of the town is waiting for its leader to come. The organizers assure and reassure the crowd that he would be here any moment. The crowd stands up whenever a passing vehicle comes that way. It arouses hopes that he has come.
The leader is Mr. Devi Lal, Chief of the Haryana Sangharsh Samiti, who was to address a meeting in Karnal on Thursday day night. The 76 -year-old leader, is a very busy man these days. His day starts at 8 a.m. and ends after 11 p.m. he had already addressed nine election meetings since morning … been constantly addressing public meetings for the past 23 months and preparing for this election.
This report is about the state assembly election in Haryana in 1987. The state had been ruled by a Congress party-led government since 1982.
Chaudhary Devi Lal, then an opposition leader, led a movement called ‘Nyaya Yudh’ (Struggle for Justice) and formed a new party, Lok Dal. His party joined other opposition parties to form a front against Congress in the elections. In the election campaign, Devi Lal said that if his party won the elections, his government would waive the loans of farmers and small businessmen. He promised that this would be the first action of his government.
The people were unhappy with the current government. They were also attracted by Devi Lal’s promise.So, when elections were held, they voted overwhelmingly in favor of Lok Dal and its allies. Lok Dal and its partners won 76 out of 90 seats in the State Assembly. Lok Dal alone won 60 seats and thus had a clear majority in the Assembly. Congress could win only 5 seats.
Once the election results were announced, the sitting Chief Minister resigned. The newly elected Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) of Lok Dal chose Devi Lal as their leader. The Governor invited Devi Lal to be the new Chief Minister. Three days after the election results were declared, he became the Chief Minister. As soon as he became the Chief Minister, his Government issued a Government Order waiving the outstanding loans of small farmers, agricultural laborers and small businessmen. His party represented the State for four years. The next elections were held in 1991. But this time his party did not win popular support. Congress won the election and formed the government.