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General Studies 2 >> Polity

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1. Context 
The results of the 18th Lok Sabha elections were declared in the first week of June'24. The ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has won 293 seats with a 43.3% vote share while the Opposition bloc INDIA has secured 234 seats with a 41.6% vote share. Other regional parties and independents polled around 15% but ended up with only 16 seats in total. This is because First Past the Post System (FPTP) is followed in our elections to the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies.
2. What is first past the post system?
  • Under First past the post system that we follow in our country, the candidate who polls more than any other in a constituency is declared elected. This is followed for elections in democracies like the U.S., the U.K. and Canada.
  • The FPTP system is simple and the most feasible method in a large country like India. The system also provides for greater stability to the executive in our parliamentary democracy because the ruling party/coalition can enjoy a majority in the lower houses without obtaining majority of the votes (more than 50%) across constituencies. 
  • The issue with FPTP is that it may result in over or under representation of political parties when compared to their vote share. In the first three elections after independence, the Congress party won close to 75% of seats in the then Lok Sabha with a 45-47% vote share.
3. What is proportional representation (PR)?
  • Proportional Representation is an election system is a type of voting system in which the number of seats allocated to each party fairly reflects the proportion of total votes cast for that party.
  • Unlike the FPTP system, Proportional Representation ensures that every vote counts towards allocating seats in Parliament or other elected bodies.
  • PR is more sophisticated than the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system, but it is more proportional. It’s a complicated method that would be tough to apply in a country like India’s subcontinent but is feasible in small countries.
Types of PR - The most common forms of PR are Party Lists (PL), Single Tranferable Vote (STV) and Proportional representation of mixed-members (MMP). 
Party Lists (PL) Single Tranferable Vote (STV) Proportional representation of mixed-members (MMP)
1. In PL, political parties define a list of candidates on which people can vote.
2. The lists can be restricted (Closed) or unrestricted (Open). The open list allows voters to indicate individual candidate choices and vote for independent candidates.
1. STV allows a voter to cast one vote and rank others in an order of preference.  
2. The system enables voters to choose the most preferred candidate from the party and vote for independent candidates as well. 
3. President of India is elected through STV and a secret ballot system.
1. Also known as Additional Member System, it is a mixed system of election process where the registered voters have two votes, to elect a local representative and the party as well.
2. MMP is operational in countries like New Zealand, South Korea, and Germany.
  • The most commonly used PR system is the ‘party list PR’ where voters vote for the party (and not individual candidates) and then the parties get seats in proportion to their vote share.
  • There is usually a minimum threshold of 3-5% vote share for a party to be eligible for a seat. With India being a federal country, for this principle to be implemented should ideally be carried out at each State/Union Territory (UT) level.
  • Thus, the PR system would have resulted in representation of parties according to their vote share where the NDA would have secured 243 seats as against 293, INDIA bloc 225 instead of 234 and others/Independents would have got 75 seats in total rather than just 16 with 15.1% vote share. 
  • The primary criticism against the PR system is that it could potentially result in instability as no party/coalition may obtain a majority to form the government in our parliamentary
  • To ensure stability in proportionate representation, the system of Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMPR) can be considered.
  • Under this system, there is one candidate who can be elected through the FPTP system from each territorial constituency. There are also additional seats that are filled based on various parties’ percentage of votes. 
4. International Practices of PR
  •  Presidential democracies like Brazil and Argentina and parliamentary democracies like South Africa, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain have the party list PR system.
  • Germany follows the MMPR system where out of the 598 seats in the Bundestag (their equivalent of our Lok Sabha), 299 seats (50%) are filled from constituencies under the FPTP system.
  • The balance 299 seats (50%) are filled by apportioning them amongst parties, that secure at least 5% votes, based on their percentage of votes. In New Zealand out of the total 120 seats in the Lower House, 60% seats are filled through the FPTP system from territorial constituencies.
  • The balance 40% seats are allotted to various parties, that secure at least 5% votes, based on their vote share. This system is expected to provide the required stability in a parliamentary democracy like India while also ensuring representation for all parties based on their vote share. 
5. Way forward 
The law commission in its 170th report, ‘Reform of the electoral laws’ (1999), had recommended the introduction of the MMPR system on an experimental basis. It had suggested that 25% of seats may be filled through a PR system by increasing the strength of the Lok Sabha considering the entire nation as one unit for PR based on vote share. But the appropriate approach would be to consider at every State/UT level considering our federal polity.
With the delimitation exercise for increasing the number of seats is due based on the first Census to be conducted after 2026.  Determining the number of seats in Lok Sabha solely in proportion to population might go against the federal principles of our country and may lead to disenchantment in the States as the population explosion in our country during the last five decades has been uneven among various regions. However, in the event of increasing the seats during such the delimitation exercise, the MMPR system can be considered for incremental seats or at least 25% of the total seats to be filled from each State/UT. This might alleviate the concerns of states in southern, northeastern, and smaller regions in the north by preventing the potential dominance of larger states through an increase in seats solely under the FPTP system.
For Prelims: EVMs, VVPATs, Election Commission of India
For Mains: 
1. "In a transparent democracy, every citizen should be able to understand and verify each step of the election process." Elaborate on the significance of the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) in empowering voters and enhancing electoral transparency. Propose additional steps to further strengthen the electoral process and uphold democratic values. (250 Words)
Previous Year Questions

1. Consider the following statements: (UPSC 2017)

1. The Election Commission of India is a five-member body.
2. Union Ministry of Home Affairs decides the election schedule for the conduct of both general elections and bye-elections.
3. Election Commission resolves the disputes relating to splits/mergers of recognised political parties.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

A. 1 and 2 only         B. 2 only      C. 2 and 3 only           D. 3 only

2. Consider the following statements : (UPSC 2021)

1. In India, there is no law restricting the candidates from contesting in one Lok Sabha election from three constituencies.
2. In the 1991 Lok Sabha Election, Shri Devi Lal contested from three Lok Sabha constituencies.
3. As per the- existing rules, if a candidate contests in one Lok Sabha election from many constituencies, his/her party should bear the cost of bye-elections to the constituencies vacated by him/her in the event of him/her winning in all the constituencies.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
A. 1 only       B. 2 only       C. 1 and 3         D. 2 and 3
3. Consider the following statements : (UPSC CSE 2021)
1. The Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms of 1919 recommended granting voting rights to all women above the age of 21.
2. The Government of India Act of 1935 gave women reserved seats in the legislature.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
A. 1 Only         B. 2 Only           C. Both 1 and 2              D. Neither 1 nor 2

Answers: 1-D, 2-B, 3-B


1. In the light of recent controversy regarding the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), what are the challenges before the Election Commission of India to ensure the trustworthiness of elections in India? (UPSC 2018)

Source: The Hindu

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