Held every five years, the Indian national elections constitute the world’s largest democratic activity. In these elections, representatives are elected to 543 seats of the Lok Sabha, and the party with 272 or more seats will select the prime minister.
The Election Commission of India is a federal authority responsible for administering all the electoral processes in India. Elections are conducted according to constitutional provisions and parliamentary legislation.
Candidates who wish to stand for the general elections are given a week to submit their nominations. As per legal provisions, a period of seven days is provided for filing the nominations after the notification is issued.
The candidates should fill the Form-2A-Nomination Paper for Contesting Election to the Lok Sabha. These nominations are scrutinised by Returning Officers, appointed by the Election Commission, who are in charge of receiving nominations of candidates in each constituency, and overseeing the formalities of the election; if the nominations are not found to be in order, they can be rejected after a summary hearing. The scrutiny of the nominations is carried out on the day following the last date for nominations.
The Returning Officer “checks whether the information required is fully furnished at the time of filing of affidavit disclosing their criminal antecedents, assets, liabilities and qualifications with the nomination paper.” The Commission has issued instructions that the candidates are required to fill up all columns in the affidavit to be filed along with the nomination paper. If any column in the affidavit is left blank, the Returning Officer will issue a notice to the candidate to file the affidavit with all columns filled in. After such notice, if a candidate fails to file the affidavit, complete in all respect, the nomination paper will be liable to be rejected at the time of scrutiny.
Validly nominated candidates are allowed to withdraw within two days after the nominations have been scrutinised. Thereafter, the final list of candidates is prepared after the withdrawal.
Nominations must be supported at least by one registered elector of the constituency, if a candidate is sponsored by a recognised party, and by ten registered electors from the constituency in case of other candidates.
All election procedures are carried out in accordance with the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), which is a set of guidelines and norms issued by the Election Commission to regulate political parties and candidates, prior to and during elections, mainly concerning speeches, polling day, polling booths, portfolios, election manifestos, processions and general conduct. Its main purpose is to ensure that ruling parties, at the Centre and in the States, do not misuse their position as an advantage to gain an unfair edge. It is designed to prevent practices considered corrupt under the MCC. The MCC is operational from the date the election schedule is announced to the date results are announced. Thus, for the 2019 general elections, the MCC came into effect on March 10th 2019, when the election schedule was announced, and will operate until May 23rd 2019, when the final results will be announced. However, the MCC is not legally binding.
Following official procedures, the Election Commission prepares a schedule for the elections.
The election process is outlined below:
Previously, the ballot paper system was used for voting. However, owing to manipulations for false votes, electronic voting systems (EVMs) were introduced.
Candidate names are written in the constituency’s major languages. To help illiterate voters, each candidate is also identified by a symbol.
When the polling officer presses the button from a control unit, which stores the votes, the voter can cast his/her vote to the desired candidate by pressing the respective button on the balloting unit.
Once poll officials press the ‘Close’ button, the machine stops recording any more votes.
When voting is completed nationwide, the results are tallied simultaneously and quickly around the country.
During counting, the serial number of each candidate appears, together with the total number of votes cast.
After counting, the results are conveyed to the returning officer. He calls the elected candidate with maximum votes. This candidate signs a document as proof for accepting the result and being elected.
Then, the declaration copies are sent to the concerned authorities.
For transparency purposes, media are encouraged to cover the election process, and the election results are publicized.