present electoral system in India is rather borrowed than organically evolved to suit the specific needs
of the country and her people. The dominant sections ofsociety know well that the FPTP (First-Past-the-Post
system) works in their favor. Such dominant sections of society occupy more space than what is legitimately
theirs. The truth is that sharing political power with all sections of India is highly resented by the dominant
sections of our society. These are the ruling class and caste that generally determine the direction of the
country’s future which normally enhances their own development, security and progress. They have set up
institutions and mechanisms that favor their own accumulation of wealth and profit.
Thus, the majority of people in India are excluded from the democratic space. The challenge is for inclusive
governance in India, which is a multicultural society with a multiparty democracy. It is time to have a look
at the experience of democracy from the point of view of the rural and urban poor, Dalits, Tribals/Adivasis,
women and all minorities. The fundamental question that arises from the ground is what has this democracy
done for the majority of the people in this vast country of India. Nothing much has changed for the better
for the marginalised people from the time of India’s independence.
The preamble of the Constitution should become a reality in the governance of India. Indian parliament
needs to put in place an electoral system that will put personalities with political acumen and opinion leaders
in the parliament of India, who will set the direction towards inclusive policy decisions.
Need for electoral reform in India: Campaign for Electoral Reforms in India (CERI), works to ensure that
governance of India is based on her Constitution to realise the rights of all people in India. Indian democracy
is in dire need of becoming more substantial and proportionally representative. The multicultural reality of
India needs to be appropriately captured in the praxis of democracy in India.
Rationale of the campaign: It is recognised that the First-Past-the-Post system( FPTP) is a relevant system
in countries with two party democracies. Even in such countries, strenuous efforts are being made to ensure
representation of multiple interest groups. Subsequent elections in India since independence have shown
that candidates with less than 10% of votes in a given electoral constituency can win the seat. In the 2009
general election to the Indian parliament, 145 out of 543 elected members won with less than 20% of votes.
Only 5 MPs, two from Tripura and one each from West Bengal, Nagaland and Sikkim got more than 50% of
votes. The average MP got only one fourth of the vote share.
Proportionate Representation (PR): If our priority is nation-building, we are sure that ‘Proportional
Representation’ (PR) will support the realisation of the dream of “we the people of India”. Caste, communal
and fundamental forces are trying to destabilise such constitutional governance in India. Baba Saheb
Ambedkar aspired for a political democracy, which would bring social and economic democracy. One
recognises that a multicultural society needs very special measures for democratic governance. Therefore,
the PR is proposed for India through proportionate electoral system. PR system is based on two principles:
principles of decisions and principles of representation. Principles of decision means to allocate the mandate
according to the proportion of votes of the parties. Principle of representation aims to represent voters’
preferences for political parties in the parliament.
The PR system puts more emphasis on justice, equality, inclusiveness and proportionality in representation
of all societal groups in the political decision-making according to the number of votes that a party can gain
in an election. The proportionate electoral system not only will transform the face of democracy in India
but also lend credibility to Indians’ claim to be the largest democracy in the world.
Mixed-Member Proportional System (MMPS): Politically speaking, India has arrived at an era of coalition
politics. In this changed scenario, India’s present electoral system in itself is irrelevant. CERI has come to the
conclusion that the Mixed-Member Proportional Representation System (MMPS) with two votes per voter
will address better the changing needs of Indian democracy. It must be recognised that most inclusive
democracies in the world have already shifted to one or other form of proportionate electoral system. It is
also recommended that India should adopt the Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) System with a ratio of
30% direct seats and 70% party list seats. Bringing in MMP will not be a total departure from the past
electoral praxis in India, at the same time it will integrate the proportionality in representation to a large
The challenge: The challenge before us is to take the issue of PR into the corridors of the Indian parliament.
It is the parliament that can bring about the necessary amendment in our electoral law to give birth to
Proportional Electoral System and also to build substantial expertise on PR in the country. Ultimately there
needs to be a PR movement in the country to know that another system of election exists and that it could
be the alternative for Indian politics with the possibility for more inclusive governance in the country.
Stakeholders in the process
The issue of PR is a national issue. The debate has to surface both at the national and regional level among
various stakeholders, such as the legislatures and the parliamentarians, political parties, their leaders and
the spokespersons, constitutional, legal and electoral experts, opinion leaders, special interest groups, such
as those of women, Dalits, Adivasis and tribals, all minorities including the trans-genders, lobby and advocacy
groups, civil society actors and movement leaders, journalists and writers, academia and intellectuals,
students and the general public.
– that a national coalition of political parties which believe in and are in favour of PR, be formed.
– to form an independent committee with eminent personalities drawn from among legal, electoral, and
constitutional experts to study the various models of PR and recommend to the Government of India to
consequently take PR for a national debate through the parliament of India, or amend the
Representation of People’s Act of 1951.
– that political party laws be revised to bring in inclusive internal democracy.
The PR system alone will not heal all the wounds. But we have seen that it has brought changes in favor of
the the marginalised Maori people of New Zealand, Sami people of Norway, people of Nepal, Danish people
of Germany, etc. It is important for us to learn from these other electoral systems. 94 democracies in the
world have shifted to PR system. Why not the largest democracy in the world?
Source: A different and longer version of this article was first published in the Ground Report India in 2014,
and updated in 2018 for the Karnataka State-Level Conference, Bangalor