The Indian Constitution gives the right to all its citizens to elect its representatives and also a chance to be elected as a representative. The Constitution makers, however, were worried that in an open electoral competition, certain weaker sections may not stand a good chance to get elected to the Lok Sabha and the state Legislative Assemblies.
Let us see the reasons why the weaker sections of the Indian society may not have an equal chance to compete in the General elections.
- The economically weaker section of the society may not have the required resources, education and contacts to contest and win elections against others.
- Those who are influential and resourceful may prevent them from winning elections.
If the weaker section are not elected to the Parliament and Assemblies , then the voice of a significant section of our population will not be heard. That would make our democracy less representative and less democratic.
So, the makers of our Constitution thought of a special system of reserved constituencies for the weaker sections.
- Some constituencies are reserved for people who belong to the Scheduled Castes [SC] and Scheduled Tribes [ST].
- In a SC reserved constituency only someone who belongs to the Scheduled Castes can stand for election.
- Similarly only those belonging to the Scheduled Tribes can contest an election from a constituency reserved for ST.
- Currently, in the Lok Sabha, 79 seats are reserved for the Scheduled Castes and 41 for the Scheduled Tribes.
- This number is in proportion to their share in the total population.
- Thus the reserved seats for SC and ST do not take away the legitimate share of any other social group.
This system of reservation was extended later to other weaker sections at the district and local level. In many states, seats in panchayats, municipalities and corporations local bodies are now reserved for Other Backward Classes as well. However, the proportion of seats reserved varies from state to state. Similarly, one-third of the seats are reserved in rural and urban local bodies for women candidates.
Once the constituencies are decided, the next step is to decide who can and who cannot vote. In a democratic election, the list of those who are eligible to vote is prepared much before the election and given to everyone. This list is officially called the Electoral Roll and is commonly known as the Votersâ€™ List.
Let us see the purpose of this Electoral List.
- The electoral list ensures that everyone gets an equal opportunity to choose their representatives. It ensures that everyone has 'one vote' and each vote is of equal value.
- It ensures that no one is denied the right to vote without a good reason, the rich or the poor , the educated or the uneducated ,for all of them deserve to have an equal say in decisions that affect them.
- It ensures that every citizen has the right to vote regardless of ones caste , creed or religion.
- It also ensures that criminals and persons with unsound mind are denied the right to vote.
- It ensures that all citizens above the age of 18 years can vote.
It is the responsibility of the government to get the names of all the eligible voters put on the voters' list. As new persons attain voting age names are added to the voters' list. Names of those who move out of a place or those who are dead are deleted. A complete revision of the list takes place every five years. This is done to ensure that it remains up to date.
Election Photo Identity Card
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati with her voter's identity card
In the last few years a new system of Election Photo Identity Card [EPIC] has been introduced. The government has tried to give this card to every person on the voters list. The voters are required to carry this card when they go out to vote, so that no one can vote for someone else. But the card is not yet compulsory for voting. For voting, the voters can show many other proofs of identity like the ration card or the driving license.