Questions on People's Participation in Democratic Process

1. What do you mean by people’s participation in the democratic process?

People’s participation includes voting in elections. It is also expressed through public debates, newspaper editorials, protest demonstrations and their active involvement in governmental programmes. Even in respect of election process, it includes participation in campaign, political discussion, working for political parties and standing as candidates.

2. Are ‘public opinion’ and ‘voice of the people’ synonyms? Give reasons to your answer.

"Voice of the people" and "public opinion" do not mean the same. Public opinion is not the unanimous opinion of the people, nor is it the opinion of the majority. Public opinion is an organized and considered opinion of the people on any issue of public concern. Public opinion can also be defined as the complex collection of opinions of many different people and the sum of all their views.

3. Explain the importance of Public Opinion in a democracy.

Public opinion plays an important role in a democracy. A democratic government draws its authority from the people and claims its legitimacy from the consent of the governed. No government can function without the support of the people. The process of development of public opinion generates thinking, promotes awareness and invites people’s views on issues of public concern.

An alert and free public opinion is a check on absolute power and it promotes a process to be responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people. It also influences government in making laws in the interest of the people.

4. List any two agencies which help in the formation of public opinion?

Two agencies which help in the formation of public opinion are Print media and electronic media.

5. Examine the importance of elections in India.

Elections provide opportunities to the people to participate actively in the functioning of the democratic government. These are the most important expression of public opinion, as these enable the people to express their will.

Elections also widen the scope of political awakening among the masses and educate them by familiarizing them with issues of public concern. They facilitate peaceful transfer of power from one political party or one group of political parties to another and legitimise the working of the government by justifying the authority of representatives lead people.

6. What do you mean by direct and indirect elections?

In direct elections, people vote directly through their ballot to elect their representatives to legislative bodies (Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies) and local government institutions. In indirect elections, the elected representatives of the people vote for electing persons to occupy certain positions. The President and the Vice-President of India are indirectly elected. The members of the Rajya Sabha also are elected indirectly.

7. Fill in the blanks

(i) Elections held after the expiry of the full term of the legislatures are known as ......

(ii) If the elections are held before the completion of the normal term of the legislature owing to the dissolution of legislative bodies, these are called ......

(iii) An election held in a particular constituency owing to a vacancy caused by resignation or death of the elected member, or when the election of a particular member is set aside by the judiciary is known as ......

(i) General Elections, (ii) Mid-term Elections, (iii) Bye Election

8. How is the Election Commission constituted?

The Election Commission consists of a Chief Election Commissioner and such number of Election Commissioners as the President may fix in accordance with the law. At present, the Election Commission of India consists of a Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners.

9. What are the two most critical functions of the Election Commission?

The two important functions of the election commission are:

  1. Ensuring free and fair elections in the country.
  2. Supervision, direction and control of the entire election machinery.

10. Who are the main election officials from state level to the level of polling booth?

For the conduct of elections, the Election Commission is assisted by a number of officials. The main election officers are the Chief Electoral Officer of the State, District Election Officers, Electoral Registration Officers, Returning Officers, Assistant Electoral Registration Officers,Assistant Returning Officers, and Polling officers.

11. If you are assigned the task of acting as a Returning Officer, what main functions will you perform and how will you ensure free, fare and peaceful poll in the constituency?

The following are the main functions performed by a returning officer:

  1. receives and scrutinizes the nomination papers of the candidates contesting elections
  2. allots election symbols on behalf of the Election Commission
  3. conducts smooth elections in the constituencies
  4. ensures counting of votes
  5. declares the election results

12. What are the five major stages of electoral process in India?

The five major stages of electoral process in India are:

  1. Delimitation of constituencies is the first step which is undertaken by the Delimitation Commission
  2. Preparation and revision of the electoral roll constitute the next step done under the supervision of the Election Commission periodically
  3. Consequent upon the President’s and Governor’s notifications, the Election Commission undertakes the task of conducting elections in the country
  4. The election schedule is announced indicating the dates for filling the nomination papers, their scrutiny, withdrawals, polling, counting of the votes, and declaration of the election results
  5. Allotment of election symbols to the candidates and the political parties is done by the Election Commission

13. Universal adult franchise ensures that the vote of every Indian citizen is equally valuable. Do you think that this has been able to reduce inequalities related to class, caste, gender and religion. Justify your view point.

Universal adult franchise means a system in which all adults, men and women, without any discrimination, have a right to vote in the elections. In many ways Universal Adult Franchise has provided opportunities to people to participate in election processes despite differences of class, caste, gender and religion. It has enriched our democracy by giving equal opportunity to all persons.

Today, people of all castes and classes have an opportunity to vote. However, we cannot say that the inequalities in our society have completely gone, persons belonging to different castes, classes and gender is still discriminated. Real equality can only be brought in once there is a change in the attitude and behavior of ordinary citizens and they stop discrimination at all levels in their personal lives as well at the societal level.

14. Mention any three problems that are confronted by the electoral system in India.

Three problems confronting the electoral system in India are:

  1. rigging of the elections - fake and bogus voting, impersonation
  2. violence during elections
  3. adverse role of money and muscle power

15. Mention any two electoral reforms you think are important to improve our electoral system.

  1. The functioning of political parties to be regulated in order to ensure that they function in a transparent and democratic manner. There is a need to audit their expenditure incurred during the elections
  2. Electoral laws to be made more stringent and there must be provisions for harsher punishment.