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Free and Fair Elections
The true test of any election system is its ability to ensure a free and fair electoral process. If we want democracy to be translated into reality on the ground, it is important that the election system is impartial and transparent. The system of election must allow the aspirations of the voter to find legitimate expression through the electoral results. Elections in India are basically free and fair. The party that wins an election and forms government does so because people have chosen it over its rivals. This may not be true for every constituency. A few candidates may win purely on the basis of money power and unfair means. But the overall verdict of a general election still reflects popular preference. But still if deeper questions are asked , the picture looks different. Are people’s preferences based on real knowledge? Are the voters getting a real choice? Is election really a level playing field for everyone? Can an ordinary citizen hope to win elections?
Questions of this kind bring the many limitations and challenges of Indian Elections to our attention. These include:
Candidates and parties with a lot of money may not be sure of their victory but they do enjoy a big and unfair advantage over smaller parties and independents.
Candidates with criminal connection have been able to push others out of the electoral race and to secure a ticket from major parties
Some families tend to dominate political parties; tickets are distributed to relatives from these families.
Very often elections offer little choice to ordinary citizens, for both the major parties are quite similar to each other both in policies and practice.
Smaller parties and independent candidates suffer a huge disadvantage compared to bigger parties.
These challenges exist not just in India but also in many established democracies. These deeper issues are a matter of concern for those who believe in democracy. Hence citizens, social activists and organisations have been demanding reforms in our electoral system. In a democracy, the electoral process has a strategic role. Every ordinary man of this country would have basic elementary right to know about a candidate who is to represent him in Parliament where laws to bind his liberty and property may be enacted.
The right to get information in democracy is recognised all throughout and it is a natural right flowing from the concept of democracy. Article 19(1)(a) of Indian Constitution provides for freedom of speech and expression. Voters’ speech or expression incase of election would include casting of votes, that is to say, voter speaks out or expresses by casting vote. For this purpose, information about the candidate to be selected is must. The ordinary man may think over before making his choice of electing law breakers as law makers.
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