April 5, 2022

Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether India should stick with its first-past-the-post electoral system or abandon it. We also look at how a rare flower has been sighted in Meghalaya, among other news.


Should India ditch the first-past-the-post electoral system?

Every five years, the world’s largest democratic exercise takes place in India. For as messy, diverse, and complicated as India’s democracy is, it’s quite a feat to pull off. An electoral system of any country is responsible for a government flourishing or perishing. People cast their votes, the candidates and parties with the most votes win, and seats are awarded across legislatures.

Sounds simple, but there’s a wrinkle to this process. There’s been some contention that India’s current electoral system, i.e., the first-past-the-post-system (FPTP), allows for an artificial majority. Does it handicap minority voters, parties, and candidates? Is it time to do away with this and switch to a proportional representation system?


What is the FPTP? Under this system, the candidate with a diversity or plurality of votes gets elected. They don’t need a clear majority, but only a simple one. They just need to have more votes than their competitors for the same seat. This system is used in direct elections to the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies. Here’s an example – if four candidates have an equal chance of getting elected, there’s a chance for the votes to be divided four ways. So, the winner could get a 26% vote share while the remaining who got more than 20% won’t win.

This isn’t a new concept, nor is it native. The FPTP system has its roots in the colonial rule of India. While they introduced self-governance in stages, India only attained universal suffrage when the Indian constitution was adopted in November 1949.

The FPTP system is enshrined in Article 91 of the Indian constitution. The Draft Constitution of 1948 had a provision that chose FPTP. The Constituent Assembly made up of eminent jurists, lawyers, and constitutional experts, took this up for discussion. There were arguments for and against the FPTP and proportional representation system. In the end, the Assembly decided to maintain the status quo.

If we take a look at the history of India’s elections, the initial decades saw successive Congress governments serve their full five-year terms till 1977. From then on, till 1997, governments were less stable. Parties couldn’t keep their majorities at the national level, and Prime Ministers had to resign. Since 1997, there has been some sense of stability.

In 2000, the government established a National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution. It looked into whether provisions for the electoral process in the constitution needed to be amended or expanded. It submitted its report in 2002 recommending no changes. It stated that changes could be done through amendments in the ordinary electoral legislation.

The FPTP system is largely seen as the standard. This hasn’t stopped some people from calling for its removal. In the UK, for example, the campaign to scrap the FPTP has been ongoing since the 1970s. Similarly in Canada as well. However, it’s easier said than done since large incumbent parties who control the legislatures aren’t keen.

VIEW: Not a representative democracy

When the Constituent Assembly debated the FPTP, Kazi Syed Karimuddin spoke against it. He stated that it perpetuated the tyranny of the majority. He also argued that it doesn’t even guarantee the rule of the majority. He cited the 1924 elections in England, where the Conservative party secured 48% of the votes and was supposed to be the majority.

Looking at general elections in India from 1952 to 2019, no government at the Centre crossed the 50% mark. In 2014 and 2019, the BJP’s vote shares were 31.34% and 37.36%, respectively. The FPTP system was designed for countries with two political parties. Safe to say, it doesn’t make sense for India, given the number of regional parties. The threshold to win elections becomes lower as more parties enter the fray.

It has resulted in parties employing a simple strategy, consolidating certain vote banks while alienating others. Take the BJP, for example. Their vote base is comprised mostly of Hindus. The BJP fielded only six Muslim candidates in 2014, with none winning. As Kruthika R, a research associate from the Centre for Law and Policy Research, Bengaluru noted, more than 90% of all elected members in the 2019 elections were Hindu, and half were upper caste. It’s hardly a representation of India’s diversity.

The proportional representation system is more broad-based and allows for a larger spectrum of socio-political and economic views. The distribution of seats is proportional to the distribution of the popular vote among parties. Author Vikram Mukka pointed out a direct correlation between the FPTP and isolation of select communities and consolidation of others. It also gives larger parties more power and money, with smaller ones relegated to the margins.

COUNTERVIEW: Better than proportional representation

Going back to the Constituent Assembly discussion, M. Ananthasayanam Ayyangar, a former deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha, said he wasn’t convinced about proportional representation. He said it wasn’t practical as many constituencies were large, with populations ranging between five and seven lakhs. He said such a system was too advanced for India’s low literacy rate.

Even Dr BR Ambedkar argued against proportional representation. He said India’s Parliamentary system, enshrined in the constitution, doesn’t suit proportional representation. He said one of its disadvantages would be the fragmentation of the legislature into small groups. He said Parliament would be severely divided, and a stable government wouldn’t hold for long.

Some experts say that a proportional representation system would slow down decision-making. When parties form coalition governments, it can sometimes be a recipe for disaster. Minority parties could hold the larger parties to ransom in coalition negotiations and discussions. This is one consequence of a proportional system. Also, a coalition government is formed by political leaders, not voters. We then get into horse-trading. There’s no representation present in such instances.

Then there’s the issue of accountability. In the FPTP system, a government can’t remain in power if people have their say. That’s not the case in a proportional system. An ousted government can still cling to power if it finds new coalition partners after an election. This could result in extremist parties on both sides taking up space, despite having minimal voter backing. And hearing the voice of the voters is what counts at the end of the day.

What’s your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)

a) India should move away from the first-past-the-post system of elections.

b) India should not move away from the first-past-the-post system of elections.


For the Right:

India’s image gets a boost

For the Left:

Why leaders of the world are heading for India


The secret red flower (Meghalaya) – Members of the North-Eastern Hill University recently found 19 Sapria himalayana flowers in a forest tract on Songket Hill in Meghalaya. The rare flowers were reportedly growing either individually or in clusters of 3 to 5. The flowers were found while the team of 3 was looking for a cave. Coincidentally, the flowers were found right in front of the cave the team refuses to name for preservation purposes.

Why it matters: The Sapria himalayana, commonly known as hermit’s spittoon or the jewelled corpse flower, is a rare holoparasitic flowering plant found in the Eastern Himalayas. Closely related to the Rafflesia, the largest known flower, and also lacks any visible leaves, roots, and stem. While it was first found in the Lohit district of Arunachal Pradesh, it has also been reported in Assam, Manipur and Meghalaya.

More government housing (Jammu & Kashmir) – According to an official spokesperson, around 54,000 houses will be built by the government in the financial year 2022-23. This will fall under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana Gramin (PMAY-G). It would also construct 400 new panchayat ghars and renovate another 300. The government will also construct 87,250 individual latrines and 2,500 community sanitary complexes in the coming year.

Why it matters: As per the spokesperson, all these initiatives have been put in place to push the rural economy and infrastructure in Jammu & Kashmir. Along with this, the government will also take up 1 lakh development projects in rural areas. Under capital expenditure for the rural sector, an allocation of ₹4,627.85 crores was made this year. This is ₹327.40 crores more than last year’s allocation.

Addressing post-poll violence (West Bengal) – On Monday, the Calcutta High Court said that it will serve a notice to both the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the State Legal Services Authority (SLSA). The notice will direct the two bodies to ensure that those facing displacement due to post-poll violence can return home safely and continue their work there.

Why it matters: Recently, the High Court also granted police protection to 303 alleged victims of post-poll violence that occurred in May 2019. In August 2021, the court had even called the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate the cases of violence. Most of which related to heinous crimes like murder, rape and crimes against women. Around 47 of the victims weren’t able to return to their places of work too.

Communal clashes in control (Rajasthan) – On Saturday, communal clashes broke out in Karauli. Around 35 people have been injured after stones were pelted at a motorcycle rally that was celebrating the Hindu new year, i.e. Nav Samvatsar. To make sure the situation doesn’t escalate, a curfew was put in place and the internet was also shut down to stop the spread of rumours in the vicinity.

Why it matters: The motorcycle rally was pelted with stones as it was passing through a Muslim-dominated area. The situation soon escalated and the violence also led to wanton arson, burning a few shops and a bike. The police now say that the situation is under control and they are currently assessing the damages done to the property. Till now, 36 people have been detained over connections to the clashes.

Violating training rules (Kerala) – A new circular has been issued by the Kerala Fire and Rescue Services department’s Director-General B Sandhya. The circular states that the department is not allowed to give any sort of training to religious or political outfits. This was issued after the reports stated that a group of officers from the department were giving training to the Popular Front of India (PFI).

Why it matters: The PFI is an extremist Islamic organisation that is based in India. Last week, officials from the state’s fire department were seen training members of the PFI. As a result of this information breaking, 2 officials have been suspended and 3 others were transferred after an investigative report was submitted to the technical director of the department. Both the Congress and the BJP have criticised the government for this mishap.


108 – As a part of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, India is set to start production of 108 military equipment which includes complex defence systems. Out of the 108 items, there is a ban on imports for 49 of them. The import ban on the rest will be implemented by the end of 2025.