Dr N Prasad,
Parliamentary & Administrative Research Institute,
New Delhi

India is the largest democracy in the world. Over 550 million voters participated in the 2014 general elections (Election Commission of India Report 2014)—equal to the population of the USA, Russia, the UK and Canada put together. This displays the enormity of India’s polling process. On the face of it, India’s democratic institutions seem to be functioning satisfactorily, with regime change being enabled as per the will of the voters, making the transition smooth. India has constitutionally opted for first-past-the-post system for general elections to the Lok Sabha and assembly elections in the states. The system, however, presents interesting anomalies, one where a candidate can still be a winner even if the person does not secure majority votes and second, where despite obtaining a sizeable vote share, a party may not gain a seat. A case in point is the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, where the Bahujan Samaj party obtained 20 per cent of the votes but failed to win even a single Lok Sabha seat. This needs to be resolved and the article in this issue on the electoral system in India provides a brief blue-print of the reforms urgently needed. The elections to the Lok Sabha and the states were held simultaneously to begin with. Somewhere down the line, with mid-term polls declared in some states, elections began to be held on varied timelines. Of late this has become frequent, so frequent that elections seem to be held round the year. This has been interpreted as the inability of the union government to function suitably. Scholars believe that in a federal setup, the central government should exhibit minimum interest in the assembly polls. Also, for a vibrant and inclusive democracy we need to let people decide when and how they want to elect their representatives. Mr Quraishi’s opinion piece succinctly outlines such ideas and more. In addition the candid interview with India’s Chief Election Commissioner highlights myriad issues confronting India’s increasingly complex political milieu. I am sure the issue would make for informed reading.