The Lok Sabha refers to the lower House of Indian Parliament.
It consists of 547 members:
- 525 members are State representatives,
- 25 members are represents the Union Territories, and
- The Indian President nominates 2 members from the Anglo-Indian community.
Composition and Terms of Lok Sabha
The members of Lok Sabha are directly elected by Indian citizens who are at least 18 years old. The tenure of Lok Sabha is five years. The members elect a Speaker from among themselves to preside at its meetings.
The present number of Members in the Lok Sabha stands at 545. This includes two members from the Anglo- Indian community who may be nominated by the President in case the community is not adequately represented.
Seats are allotted to different States on the strength of their population. Uttar Pradesh has 80 seats while a number of small States of the North East, Sikkim, Chandigarh, Pondicherry, Andaman &Nicobar Islands, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu and Lakshadweep have just one seat each.
A freeze on the number of seats has been made till 2026 to encourage States to make efforts for stabilizing population. Some seats have been reserved exclusively for candidates belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
The term of the Lok Sabha is five years. The President has powers to dissolve the House earlier under special circumstances.
Sessions of the Parliament:
There are three sessions of the Parliament. The February – May is the budget session. The two other sessions are July -September and November-December.
Elections to the Lok Sabha
Depending on the number of Lok Sabha seats, the State is divided into a number of areas referred to as electoral constituencies. Each constituency elects one Member of Parliament.
Elections to the Lok Sabha
The Lok Sabha Elections are held on the principle of adult franchise. All adults (of age 18 or above) have the right to vote and are enlisted in the voters list for each constituency. The right to vote is Universal that is without any other condition. (Some categories of such people who are insane have been disqualified). The election is held by secret ballot. The marking on ballot papers has been substituted by voting through electronic machines.
Candidates for Election as Member of Parliament have to be citizens of India with their names appearing in the voters list. They have to be of 25 years of age or above. Proclaimed offenders and persons excluded from voting rights under the law are not eligible for election
Reservation of seats in Lok Sabha
The reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in Parliament and Legislative Assemblies has been extended by an amendment to the Constitution in 1990. Of the total strength of 543, in Lok Sabha, 79 seats are served for the Scheduled Castes and 40 for the Scheduled Tribes.
Article 330 provides that seats shall be reserved in Lok Sabha for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes and article 332(1) provides reservation of seats for them in the State Assemblies. Initially, this reservation was to last for ten years only.
Article 334, as originally enacted, provided that these provisions relating to the reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes shall cease to have effect on the expiry of a period of ten years from the commencement of the Constitution.
The period fixed by this article was extended after every ten years through constitutional amendments in 1960, 1969, 1980 and 1990.
Proportional Representation not adopted
The writers of our Constitution effectively tried to balance the advantages of multiple systems. For instance, India does use alternative systems like the “Single Transferable Vote” when it comes to electing the President and the Members of the Rajya Sabha.
Here, the voters are elected representatives [who are assumed to be more educated than the electorate] and the numbers are also small enough to conduct multiple rounds. India was able to run a successful democracy even with mostly illiterate voters and simplicity of systems is a key to this.
First Past the Post is a much simpler system to understand and a cheaper one to implement and is used by not just India, but also many other major democracies like the US, UK and Canada. Since the Indian system is so much inspired from these three, it is not surprising that the Indian framers went for a more tried and tested system.
On the other hand, conducting multiple rounds with Lok Sabha elections [with 500 million voters] will be prohibitively expensive and extremely long drawn out, as it already takes 5-6 weeks for a single round of election to finish.
The system has to be simple and scalable. No other country has to deal with 500 million voters spread over such a large geography, speaking so many languages. Having multiple rounds can be very expensive.
The system has to be stable. Indians have always preferred stability over anything else due to our long past – with memories of unstable times. Having a proportional system or other alternative systems can produce very unstable governments. Between 1996 and 1998, Indian government changed 6 times [Rao->Vajpayee->Gowda->Gujral->Vajpayee->Vajpayee] and this can be deadly for the economy.
The system has to avoid communalism. Proportional representation would give voices to all groups in the society and this is not necessarily good [or at least as though by Congress]. With extremism brewing among Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs in 1940s, it was not the time to allow a cacophony of voices into the Parliament.
In a way, the system ensures that existing parties [though not deliberately intended] will have little competition. With alternative voting systems, new parties with small following can get some share of power. This is not liked by the bigger parties who obviously don’t want more competition. Since any Constitutional change has to come through the existing parties, this will not happen.
At the end, the Constitution is a trade off. Our framers tried to get the best of all systems through variety of checks and balances. They wanted a stable, non-communal government to endure the harsh reality of our neighborhood, while at the same time get the voices of all communities heard.