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Daily-current-affairs / 27 Apr 2024

Questioning the Polls: Examining Unopposed Elections: Daily News Analysis



Unopposed elections, while legally valid, raise pertinent questions regarding democratic representation and the exercise of electoral rights. The Surat and Arunachal Pradesh results are issues that call for debate where an election is made to seem ‘free and fair’ despite people not having cast a single vote.

Legal Framework and Democratic Rights

       Unopposed elections, permitted under Rule 11 of the Conduct of Election Rules 1961, signify a victory without opposition. However, they raise concerns about the absence of choice and the disenfranchisement of voters. Recent instances, such as the Surat Lok Sabha seat where two candidates were disqualified, and the subsequent withdrawal of eight others, underscore the need for a deeper examination of the electoral process.

       The Representation of the People Act, 1951, outlines procedures for elections, including scenarios where the number of candidates equals or falls short of the seats available. However, it lacks provisions for situations where no candidates contest or all electors boycott the election, prompting questions about the Election Commission's obligations and the voters' role in the process

       In a similar vein, 10 other Assembly seats were procured in Arunachal Pradesh without contest. Section 53 of The Representation of the People Act, 1951, addresses situations where the number of candidates matches the available seats, highlighting the need for comprehensive reforms to ensure democratic principles are upheld.

Comparative Analysis: Electoral Process vs. Financial Rules

       Drawing a parallel with the General Financial Rules (GFRs), which mandate fair and transparent procedures for public procurement, sheds light on the concept of competition and its implications. While the electoral process mirrors some aspects of procurement rules in ensuring fairness, it also raises concerns about voter exclusion and the concentration of power in the hands of a few candidates.

       Interestingly, the General Financial Rules (GFRs), akin to Rule 11 of the Conduct of Election Rules 1961, emphasize the importance of competition in public procurement. However, they also recognize exceptions, such as the Single Tender Enquiry, under specific circumstances, highlighting the need for flexibility while ensuring fairness and transparency.

       The dichotomy between the electoral process and democratic principles becomes evident when considering the exclusion of voters from choosing their representatives. The absence of alternatives undermines the essence of democracy, highlighting the need for reforms to address this imbalance.

Challenges posed by Electoral System

       Paradox of Electoral Exclusion: The existing electoral process presents a paradox, wherein the "elector" is entirely sidelined from the process of selecting their representative. In this scenario, individuals lacking even a single vote could potentially hold legislative positions, ostensibly representing entire constituencies. Such a setup presumes voters' choices because they are left with no alternatives, raising concerns about the susceptibility of the election process to manipulation by a select few candidates. In a dire scenario, candidates across all 543 parliamentary constituencies could exploit the system, depriving billions of electors of their fundamental rights while undermining the essence of democracy.

       Bias towards Contesting Candidates: The Representation of the People Act (RPA) exhibits a bias towards contesting candidates. It categorizes a complete election boycott as tantamount to zero votes, addressed under Section 65, which pertains to the 'Equality of Votes'. In instances of vote equality among candidates, the decision falls to the returning officer, effectively replacing the will of the people with the procedural expediency of the system. This inherent contradiction poses a significant challenge to democracy, which fundamentally espouses governance "of the people, by the people, and for the people." Moreover, while the RPA allows for the issuance of another notification if no candidates file nominations initially, it remains silent on subsequent occurrences. However, it effectively excludes individuals abstaining from elections and deprived of the NOTA option, as the significance of NOTA in the democratic process is deemed negligible. Consequently, candidates possess the ability to disrupt the electoral process, whereas collective action from the populace remains ineffectual.

Potential Solutions

       One proposed solution involves amending the first-past-the-post system to introduce a minimum percentage of votes for winning candidates. This would ensure that elected representatives garner genuine support from constituents, rather than relying on uncontested victories.

       Additionally, in instances where no candidates contest multiple times, transferring the seat to the nominated category, where the President of India can nominate a qualified individual, offers an alternative approach to ensure representation in the absence of candidates.

       This debate is needed to avoid a 'rain washes out play' or a 'collusive walkover', ensuring a free and fair election without fear or favours. It could be argued that voters could also be denied their rights if there are no candidates to contest. The democratic process is fulfilled only when there is interest among the contestants and the voters. Someone has to seek your vote for you to cast it.


Unopposed elections pose significant challenges to the democratic process, raising questions about representation, voter participation, and fairness. Addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach, encompassing legal reforms, electoral procedures, and public discourse.

By reevaluating existing norms and proposing innovative solutions, stakeholders can uphold the principles of democracy and ensure that elections truly reflect the will of the people. The Surat and Arunachal Pradesh cases serve as catalysts for meaningful dialogue and action, paving the way for a more inclusive and equitable electoral system.

The need for comprehensive reforms is evident, with numerical data from recent cases highlighting the urgency of addressing issues surrounding unopposed elections.

Probable Questions for UPSC Mains Exam-

1.      In light of recent instances of unopposed elections in India, what are the key concerns regarding democratic representation and voter participation raised by such electoral outcomes? Discuss potential reforms to address these challenges and uphold democratic principles. (10 Marks, 150 words)

2.      Compare and contrast the electoral process outlined in the Representation of the People Act, 1951, with the General Financial Rules governing public procurement. How do these frameworks ensure fairness and transparency, and what implications do they have for voter inclusion and the concentration of power?  (15 Marks, 250 words)

Source- The Hindu