Mains Paper 2: Indian Constitution- significant provisions and basic structure.
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: First Past the Post System
Mains level: Electoral reforms in India
- The article discusses pros and cons of various electoral systems like the First Past the Post, Preferential ballot system and List system.
- The author also argues that it could be a good idea to have additional seats in Lok Sabha for smaller parties that poll significant votes but fail to get any seats.
What is First Past the Post (FPTP) System?
- In this voting method voters indicate on a ballot thecandidate of their choice, and the candidate who receives most votes wins.
Criticisms of FPTP-
- Reflects ground reality unfairly: It allows a disproportionate relation between the votes a party polls and the seats it garners. This disproportion is two-fold: Some parties suffer due to an adverse ratio between votes and seats while some benefit from it and win too many seats.
Explained: In the last parliamentary elections, for instance, the BJP polled under one-third votes and managed to win more than 50 per cent of the seats. In contrast, the Congress polled under one-fifth votes but it could win just 8 per cent seats.
- Two, the winning candidate does not necessarily have a real (that is, absolute) majority in the constituency.
- The system that is sometimes erroneously seen as unfair might actually be articulating the reality a bit more sharply and correctly. This can be justified by the following facts. During the period of 1989-2014, there is a decreasing trend in the Congress’s votes and seat share (both) and increasing trend of the same for the BJP in the same period. Also, this period is widely accepted as the period of decline of the Congress and the rise of the BJP. So, the FPTP in turn quite accurately reflects the ground reality.
- Not absolute but relative majority: The logic behind the present system of plurality is that it is adequate if a candidate is “more” popular than any other contestant. To expect a candidate always to have clear or absolute majority would be unrealistic and unnecessary as a democratic precondition.
Alternative to Vote-Seat inconsistency: List System-
- Adopt a List System: In this system parties are allotted seats in proportion to the votes they poll. In case of parties that are new entrants or parties who have very narrow support base (community based) such a system could be a good alternative to win seats.
- A list system would genuinely encourage a multi-party system whereas the plurality system is often supposed to encourage two-party system.
- Our present system is based on the idea of constituency-level representation. The list system would nullify that or, at best, craft huge (often state-wide) multi-member constituencies and even then, the relation between the voter (the constituency) and the candidate (representative) would be snapped.
- The grip of the party over legislators would possibly become vicious because the candidature of a particular person would be less important than the party leader and the party brand name.
- Preferential Voting System: It is a system of voting in which voters indicate their first, second, and lower choices of several candidates for a single office. If no candidate receives a majority, the second choices are added to the first choices until one candidate has a majority.