Can we draw the following conclusions from the information given in this chapter? Give two facts to support your position for each of these. a) Election Commission of India does not have enough powers to conduct free and fair elections in the country. b) There is a high level of popular participation in the elections in our country. c) It is very easy for the party in power to win an election. d) Many reforms are needed to make our elections completely free and fair.

a) Election Commission of India does not have enough powers to conduct free and fair elections in the country. 

The given statement is not a right conclusion. The Election Commission of India does have the powers to conduct free and fair elections in India.

  • The Election Commission of India is a powerful and independent institution.
  • The independence enjoyed by the Election Commission is akin to that of Indian Judiciary.
  • The President of India appoints the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC).
  • After the appointment of CEC, he/she is not answerable to the Government nor the President of India.
  • It is almost impossible to remove the CEC.
  • Very few election commissions in the world have such wide-ranging powers as the Election Commission of India.
  • The decisions on announcement of elections, the control and conduct of elections, and the declaration of election results are taken by the Election Commission.
  • If any party or candidate violates the code of conduct, then they will be punished.
  • To prevent the misuse of powers by the incumbent Government, the EC will provide guidelines during the elections and thereby prevent transfer of officials or enhance the chances of the incumbent Government winning the elections. 
  • The Government does not have control over the government officials on election duty, instead they will be under the control of the EC.
  • If there is any malpractice or rigging, then the EC can order repolling in the affected constituency.
  • If there are lapses on the part of the administration or Government, the EC can reprimand them.
  • All these would not have been possible without the independence enjoyed by the EC.

b) There is a high level of popular participation in the elections in our country 

People in India participate in elections with high levels of enthusiasm; this would not have happened if the elections were not free and fair.

  • Voter turnout figures help in measuring the participation of people in the election process.
  • Turnout indicates the percent of eligible voters who actually cast their vote. 
  • Over the past fifty years, in India the turnout has either gone up or remained stable whereas in North America and Europe there is a decline. 
  • Compared to the privileged sections and rich, it is the underprivileged, illiterate and poor people who vote in greater proportion.
  • Whereas in the United States, rich and the white people vote in more proportion when compared to Hispanics, African Americans, and poor people.
  • A lot of importance is attached to the elections in India by the common people.
  • More than one third of voters took part in campaign-related activities during the 2004 elections. Over the years, the interest of the voters have increased significantly.

c) It is very easy for the party in power to win an election. 

The powerful would always win the elections, if the elections were not fair and free. The ruling parties would never lose elections if the elections were not free and fair. If the elections were not free and fair, the losing party would never accept the outcome.

  • In the last 25 years, the ruling party lost in every two out of three elections. Both at the state level and national level one can routinely observe that ruling parties do lose the elections.
  • In India, about half of the sitting MLA’s or MPs lose elections whereas in the US, the incumbent hardly loses an election.
  • It is often seen that candidates having criminal backgrounds or who have spent huge money to buy votes lose elections.
  • The defeated parties usually accept the election outcome as a people’s verdict barring a few exceptional cases.

d) Many reforms are needed to make our elections completely free and fair 

The statement is not absolutely right, because there may be small incidents of malpractices, but fortunately they are not on such a scale so as to defeat the very purpose of elections. None of the parties can win through electoral malpractices, they can only win through the mandate of the people. There are many checks and balances already in place which are mentioned below

  • While contesting elections, the candidates and political parties have to follow guidelines laid down by the Election Commission, these are known as codes of conduct.
  • All the parties and candidates have equal opportunities to carry out election campaigns and appeal for votes, hence one can say that there is a level playing field.
  • Rigging of votes that are cast by voters is not possible due to the reasons mentioned below.
  • Electronic Voting Machines (EVM’s) are sealed once the elections are over, and they are taken to a secure place.
  • On a predetermined date, all the EVM’s of all the constituencies are opened and the votes are counted.
  • To ensure that there is no malpractice in the counting, agents of all the candidates will be present while counting is done.
  • Newspapers, radios, social media, television channels report on the election events.

Some of the areas may require reforms, the reasons behind it are mentioned below:

  • Independent candidates and smaller parties may face disadvantages when compared to bigger parties, as bigger pirates and candidates may use their financial muscle power to have an unfair advantage. 
  • Political parties are dominated by families and the party tickets are also distributed among family members.
  • Candidates having criminal backgrounds are able to get party tickets from major parties.

However, the above mentioned challenges exist in established democracies and these problems are not confined to Indian democracy.

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