Your guide to the Indian General Elections

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Here’s something that you will hear a lot about in the next few months: The Indian General Elections. When the world’s largest democratic country (in terms of population) has elections, the world takes notice of how smoothly the system works while India chooses its new Government.

Here’s a quick refresher on the process, and answers to the initial questions you may have.

What are the General Elections? General Elections are when the people of the country elect their representatives for the Lok Sabha, the lower house in India’s bicameral (two level) parliamentary system.

Why are these Elections so important? These elections are important because the winning party forms the Government of India. They are responsible for the decisions taken in running a country. This Government has a term of 5 years to work towards developing the country.

Who gets to vote? Every Indian citizen above the age of 18 is allowed to vote. The candidates standing for election have to be 25 years old and above.

Do we vote directly for our Prime Minister? Not directly! The party that wins the maximum number of seats in the Lok Sabha after the general elections then chooses a representative who is appointed the Prime Minister, by the President of India.

So who do we vote for? We vote for Members of Parliament who represents a district/constituency in the Lok Sabha or Lower House of the Parliament.

How does this process work?

On Election Day, people in that constituency vote for whoever they want to choose as their representative in the Lok Sabha. If there isn’t any one they want to vote for, they can choose NOTA (None Of The Above).

On Counting Day, the person with the maximum number of votes in each constituency is declared winner.

The party that has the majority of members in Lok Sabha forms the Government. A minimum of 273 seats are needed for any party to have majority.

The leader or a representative chosen by the party that has majority is selected as Prime Minister of the country by the President.

What if there is no clear majority? If one single party does not have majority, then they join hands with other parties to achieve majority in the house. This is known as a coalition government.

What about the other top ministers? How are they chosen? The council of ministers is selected by the President, on the advice of the Prime Minister.

This is what the Council looks like:

  • Prime Minister
  • Deputy Prime Minister: takes charge of things when the Prime Minister is away
  • Cabinet Minister: In charge of one specific functional area like defence or finance.
  • Minister of State (independent charge): In charge of a specific area and does not come under a larger ministry like in the case of Labour and Employment or Youth and Sports
  • Minister of State: Looks after a specific area in the ministry and report to a cabinet minister.

Who oversees this entire election process? The free and fair election process is administered by the Election Commission of India. Some of its functions include providing symbols to each party, updating voter lists and issuing voter id cards. They also supply the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) to all voting booths, lay down rules for candidates to follow during the campaign, and decide the dates for the elections.

Does the entire country vote on one day? No, voting takes place in phases, with small groups of states voting at one point of time. This is done so that resources are not stretched and so that the voting can take place smoothly. In the 2014 General Elections, voting took place in 9 phases (or days). General Elections in 2019 will take place between April and May.

However, the counting of votes in all 543 constituencies takes place on one day.

Who are the main parties for the 2019 election?

Credit: Jagran Josh

While the major parties are the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) and Indian National Congress (INC), elections are usually contested with alliances that are formed.

National Democratic Alliance is an alliance between the BJP, Janata Dal (United),Lok Janshakti Party and some others.

United Progressive Alliance consists of the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and others.

More alliances will be formed closer to the elections, nothing has been finalised yet. And while alliances are made before the elections, sometimes they change after the elections are done and dusted!

So, here’s your guide to the Indian General Election 2019. If you have any more questions for us, do leave it in the comments and we will be happy to answer them for you.


Written by: Preetika Soni. Preetika is a freelance content writer and transcriptionist. Her interests are photography, crochet, and finding answers for her 3 year old son’s ‘But Why’ questions.

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