Electoral Reforms In India

Making the local governance strong


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 2- Electoral reforms and the importance of strong local governments.

The article analyses the issues faced by democracy in India and suggests the way out in the form of strong local governments.

Issues being faced by Indian democracy

1. Issue of use of money power

  • Around the world, electoral democracies face the issues of funding political parties and elections.
  • Money is required to win elections legitimately, even when people are not bribed to vote, which is illegitimate.
  • Communications with citizens can be very expensive.
  • Advertisements have to be paid for as well as teams of professionals for managing social media.
  • The race to raise more money for legitimate electioneering purposes can corrupt the process of funding parties and elections.
  • Solutions are not easy because the right to free speech cannot be denied.

2.Issues with deliberations by the representatives

  • Debates within India’s Parliament hardly inspire citizens’ confidence in their representatives’ ability to govern the country.
  • The problem in electoral democracies is also in the conduct of their deliberations when they come together.
  • This problem is not due to the quality of the individuals, it is inherent in the design of the process for electing representatives.
  • Representatives of the people must be chosen by smaller electorates within geographical constituencies.
  • But when they meet together in the national chamber, they are expected to govern the whole country.
  • They must shed the interest of their constituency and consider what will be best for the whole country.
  • Constituency favouring leads to challenges for equitable solutions for sharing of river waters, and to railway stations.
  • Electing good representatives to Assemblies is not enough to ensure good decisions will be made.

3.Role of political parties: Lack of inner democracies

  • Function of parties: Political parties in electoral democracies provide a solution to the problem of creating an alignment of views among representatives from hundreds of constituencies around the country.
  • A party’s point of view on fundamental matters can unite many.
  •  However, when there are too many parties and too many contradictory points of view to be accommodated within a coalition, governance can break down.
  • Therefore, political parties are not evil.
  • However, when political parties are not internally democratic, they become a source to amass power and wealth, and democratic nations suffer.

So, should we adopt direct form of democracy

  • For the reason stated above, it has become very difficult in representative democracies to arrive at good and fair decisions for the governance of a large state or country.
  • New Internet technologies make adoption of direct form of democracy possible.
  • But, if all voters have not understood what is at stake, they cannot decide well this is what happened in hasty Brexit referendum.

Way Forward

1.Need for the strong local governance

  • Complex issues, where many interests collide, must be resolved by reason, not settled by the numbers.
  •  Hence there is no alternative to good local governance, wherein citizens manage their local affairs democratically.
  • One-size solutions devised by experts at the centre cannot fit all.
  • Local systems solutions are essential to solve global systemic problems of environmental sustainability and inclusive growth.

2.Funding and Intra-Party Democracy related reforms

  • Electoral funding must be cleaned up, and democracy within political parties improved to make representative democracy work better.
  • This will require big changes to entrenched systems.
  • Citizens must appreciate that they have to be the source of solutions, and not become only the source of problems.
  • Citizens must learn to listen to each other’s perspectives in their villages and in their urban neighbourhoods.

What are the challenges the electoral process in India faces? Suggest the solution to the issues democracy in India faces.


Since India’s Independence 73 years ago when the power of government was transferred from a centre in London to a centre in Delhi, strong local governance remains the unfinished agenda to make India’s democracy strong and deep.

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