When the term of the legislature is over, or the legislature has been dissolved and new elections have been called, the Election Commission puts into effect the machinery for holding an election.
In case of Lok Sabha elections have to be concluded before the limit of 6 months that is stated by the Constitution as the maximum possible duration of the last session of dissolved Lok Sabha and the recalling of new House.
Schedule of elections is usually announced by the Election Commission in a major press conference a few weeks ago before the formal process starts. The model code of conduct immediately comes into effect after such an announcement.
Formal process of an election starts with calling electorates to elect members of concerned legislature. As soon as notifications are issued, candidates can starts filling their nomination in the constituencies from where they wish to contest.
These are scrutinized by returning officer of the concerned constituency, after last date for filling the nomination is over (that is about a week). Validly nominated candidates can withdraw from the contest within two days from the date of scrutiny. About two weeks, before actual poll date, is given to contesting candidates for political campaign.
For national election polling is held on a number of days, this is because of the vast magnitude of operations involved and massive size of electorates. A separate date for counting is fixed and result is declared for every constituency by the concerned returning officer.
The complete list of the members elected is compiled by the commission and it issues an appropriate notification for due constitution of house. This marks the completion of election process.
It is necessary for a candidate to make and subscribe an oath or affirmation before an officer authorized by the election commission (Returning Officer or Asst. Returning officer).
The candidate, in person, is required to make the oath or affirmation immediately after presenting his nomination paper and in any case not later than the day previous to the date of scrutiny.
In the case of a candidate confined in a prison or under preventive detention, the superintendent of the prison or the commandant of the detention camp in which he is so confined or is under such detention is authorized to administer the oath and in the case of candidate confined to a bed in a hospital or elsewhere owing to illness or any other cause, the medical superintendent in charge of the hospital or the medical practitioner attending on him is similarly authorized.
If the candidate is outside India, the Indian Ambassador of High Commissioner or diplomatic consular authorized by him can also administer oath/affirmation.
The campaign is the period when the political parties put forward their candidate and argument with which they hope to persuade people to vote for their candidates and parties.
Candidates are given a week to put forward their nomination. These are scrutinized by the Returning Officers and if not found in order can be rejected after a summary hearing.
The official campaign lasts at least two weeks from the drawing up of the list of nominated candidate and officially ends 48 hours before polling closes.
During the election campaign, political parties and contesting candidates are expected to abide by the model code of conduct evolved by the election commission on the basis of a consensus among political parties.
The model code lays down broad guidelines as to how the political parties and candidates should conduct themselves during the election campaign.
It is intended to maintain the election campaign on healthy lines avoid clashes or conflict between political parties and their supporters and to ensure peace and order during the campaign period and thereafter until the results are declared. The model code also prescribes guidelines for the ruling party either at the centre or in the state so that a level field is maintained and ensures that ruling party does not use its official position for election campaign.
The model code also prescribes guidelines for the ruling party either at the centre or in the state so that a level field is maintained and ensures that ruling party does not use its official position for election campaign.
Once an election has been called, parties issue manifesto detailing the programmes they wish to implement if elected to government, the strength of their leaders and weaknesses of opposite party and their leaders.
Voting is by secret ballot.
Polling stations are usually set up at public institutions such as schools and community halls.
To enable as many electors as possible to vote the officials of election commission try to ensure that there is a polling station within two kilometer of every voter, and that no polling station should have to deal with more than 1500 voters.
Each polling station is open for at least 8 hours on the day of the election.
Electronic Voting Machine
An EVM is a simple electronic device used to record votes in place of ballot papers. EC took a decision to use only EVMs in 2004 Lok Sabha elections. SC has passed a judgement to equip all EVMs with VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail).
It has following advantages over traditional voting mechanism:
- It eliminates the possibility of invalid/doubtful vote which in many cases are the root causes of controversies and election petitions.
- It makes the process of counting of votes much faster than the conventional system.
- It is eco-friendly as it reduces the use of paper.
According to the section 77 of RPA, 1951, every candidate contesting in election to the House of the People or to the Legislative Assembly of a State, shall, either by himself or by his election agent, keep a separate and correct account of all expenditure in connection with the election incurred or authorized by him or by his election agent.
Currently the limits on expenditure by candidates are as follows:
- Lok Sabha elections: maximum of 70 lakhs; for north eastern and hilly states – 54 lakhs rupees.
- State assembly election: maximum of 28 lakhs; for north eastern and hill states – 20 lakhs rupees.
Every contesting candidate at an election shall, within thirty days from the date of election of the elected candidate or, if there are more than one elected candidate at the election and the dates of their election are different, the later of those two dates, lodge with the district election officer an account of his election expenses which shall be a true copy of the account kept by him or by his election agent.