* Every citizen of India who is 18 years of age and above and who is not otherwise disqualified, is entitled to vote in the elections.
* The Constitution affirms that all the people of India are free and equal and have
the right to vote without any distinction of caste, creed, colour or sex place of birth.
* The system of universal adult franchise is based on the principle 'one person one vote¢.
This ensures political equality in the country. The disqualifications are also given in the Constitution.
Those who are declared bankrupt or mentally unsound are debarred from voting.
* Effective functioning of a democratic government depends on the quality of its citizens.
The citizens, who elect the government, should be alert, aware of their rights and duties,
keep themselves update with what is happening in the country and the world as a whole.
They need to increase their knowledge through newspapers, radio, television, public meetings and other media.
* Democracy seek's people's opinion on various issues. This is so because democracy derives its authority from the people
It depends, to a great extent on public opinion. In a representative democracy, every government has to think about people's reaction to its policies.
* No government would like to in power only for one time. It would like to come back to power again after the next election.
It would, in fact, like to retain power. Coming back to power depends on the next election which in turn, depends on people's opinion of its work when it was in power.
* Strong public opinion plays a very significant role in the capturing of power,
forming government and also retaining the government in the consecutive elections.
* Public opinion helps in creating such a condition where the government cannot afford to misrule or neglect the country.
Alert and intelligent public which keeps itself informed, cannot be taken for a ride by the government.
* The government also knows that disregarding the aspirations of such a public will make it unpopular instantly and
the chance of its coming back to power in the next election becomes remote.
(A) Agencies of Public Opinion :
(i) Print Media :
* In today's world people come to know of the events and happenings across
the globe through two sources-the Print Media and the Electronic Media.
The press through the newspapers, magazines, journals, carry the news of the world.
Public opinion depends to a large extent, on the press.
* In a country like India, where regional languages are equally important, magazines in regional languages
play a significant role in informing the people about the events and happenings in India and in the world.
(ii) Electronic Media :
Importance of radio, television, or cinema in the
formulation of public opinion can never be overlooked specially in a country like india, where rate of illiteracy is quite high.
* Radio reaches more people than the newspapers or magazines.
* Television is another media which not only gives the news of the country and the world it also entertains people.
* Cinema is also an important mode of creating public opinion.
Cinemas often depict about common problems like untouchability, castiesm, dowry, or on subjects like poverty and gender-bias.
* It is said that elections are the barometer of democracy while political parties and contestants are the lifeline of elections.
* Elections provide opportunity to the people to judge the performance of their representatives.
Elections also generate a new political attitude which can determine the future course of the country at large.
Election time also gives the electors an opportunity to assess the socio-economic environment of the country.
* Elections brings in a scenario, where it become important for the electors or voters to cast their vote in a free, fair and transparent manner.
* An election is a contest between different political parties in order to get people’s support.
Sometimes an individual in his/her personal capacity, can also contest an election.
* The party which gets the support of the largest number of people, comes to power and forms the government.
However, there are times when no single party gets the majority in the legislature.
In such a situation more than one party may join together and form a government.
Still there can be a situation where a single party getting the largest number of votes,
can also form government with the internal support of other parties.
(a) By-elections and Mid-term Elections:
* The Lok Sabha and the Vidhan Sabhas in the states are normally elected every five years.
But sometimes electrons are held not necessarily at regular intervals and not under normal circumstances.
* If a representative from a constituency dies while in office, or if the office falls vacant because of reasons like resignation,
fresh elections are held in that particular constituency. Such an election is called by election.
* If the Lok Sabha or any of the State Assemblies (Vidhan Sabhas) is dissolved before the expiry of its
full term and elections are held to constitute a new house, it is called mid-term elections.
(b) Election Commission:
* The entire process of election in our country is conducted, controlled and supervised by an independent body called the Election Commission.
* All elections to the Parliament and to the State legislatures and elections to the offices of
the President and the Vice President are vested in the Election Commission.
* The Election Commission fixex and announces the dates of the elections in our country.
The Election Commission makes sure that the party in power does not take undue advantage over other parties.
* In order to ensure that the Election Commission remains above any external influence,
the appointment, the terms and condition of service and the procedure for removal from office, etc.,
of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners, are provided in the Constitution itself.
(c) Election Process:
* The Election is conducted by a secret ballot.
This means that no one is supposed to know for which candidate a person is voting. Her/ his choice is kept secret.
* The election process comprises announcement of date, filing of nomination papers,
scrutiny of the applications, withdrawal of candidature, publication of the final list, campaigning, casting of votes, announcement of results.
* A democratic government cannot function properly without political parties.
The rise of political parties is directly linked to the emergence of representative democracies.
* Political parties are a life in to the entire electoral process
. In fact a democratic government in the present era cannot work without political parties.
Election is not only a contest between the candidates but between political parties as well.
* Parties nominate the candidates and organize election campaigns.
(a) Party System:
(i) Single-Party System:
* There is no competition in this system. The only party nominates the candidates and the voters have
only two choices - (i) Not to vote at all or (ii) write ‘yes’ or ‘no’ against the name of the candidates nominated by the party.
The countries following this system are China, North Korea and Cuba.
(ii) Bi-party System:
* If several parties compete for power, and more than two parties have a reasonable chance of
coming to power either on their own strength or in alliance with others, we call it a bi-party system.
(iii) Multi-party System:
* If several parties compete for power, and more than two parties have a reasonable chance of
coming to power either on their own strength or in alliance with others, this type of system is known as multi-party system.
(b) Party System in India:
* In India politics is dominated by several national and regional parties. That is why we say India has a multiparty system.
* After independence INC ramained an important party and most of the time it had remained in power in the centre and in many states.
(c) Types of Parties in India:
In India we have two types of political parties- National Parties and Regional Parties.
(i) National parties:
* Parties which have influence all over the country. But the strength of national parties vary from state to state.
party cannot call itself a national party just like that. There is a strict procedure and each party has to adhere to that procedure.
* A party is recognised as a national party by the Election Commission on the basis of a formula.
A party which could secure not less than six percent of the total valid votes in the previous general elections,
at least in four states and wins atleast four seals in the Lok Sabha will be called a national party,
Indian National Congress, Bhartiya Janta Party, Bhaujan Samaj party, Samajwadi Party,
the Communist Party of India (the CPI), Communist party of India (Maxist) are some of the major national parties in India.
(iii) Regional Parties:
* Besides the national parties there are regional parties. For recognition as a state party,
a political party must secure at least six percent of valid votes in the general elections in the states plus two seats in the State Assembly
. Though the influence and activities of these parties are restricted to particular states or regions, these parties can be very powerful in their respective regions.
* Some of the major regional parties are the AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam),
the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) both in Tamil Nadu, Telugu Desam in Andhra Pradesh, Akali Dal in the Punjab,
Samajwadi Party in Uttar pradesh, Rashtriya Janta Dal in Bihar, the National Conference in Jammu and Kashmir and the Assam Gana Parishad in Assam
. A political party that loses its recognition gets to retain its symbol for six years.
(d) Alliance or Front:
* When several parties in a multi-party system join hands for the purpose of contesting elections and winning power, it is called an alliance or a front.
* In India there were three such major alliances in 2004 parliamentary elections- the National Democratic Alliance (headed by B.J.P.),
the United Progressive Alliance (headed by Congress) and the left Front.
(e) Interest Groups:
* Besides the political parties, in democracies there are several organized groups representing the varied interests of the citizens.
* They organize themselves about specific interests within themselves and with the government.
They sometimes even supplement the role of the political parties. These groups are called ‘interest groups’.
* The contribution of interest groups in the democratic functioning, sometimes, could be quite effective.