General Elections 2019

Food shortage, lack of law, no rolls: Obstacles India overcame for first General Elections

Five facts about the first time India voted

By DTE Staff
Published: Thursday 23 May 2019

A man carries his visually challenged man to a polling booth in Jama Masjid area in Delhi during the 1951 Lok Sabha elections. Photo: Wikimedia CommonsIndia's elections are the largest electoral process, but do you know much about the first time the country exercised this right?

In 1951-52, when India held its first General Elections, there were many superlatives. One of them was: it was the largest number of people to have been given universal voting rights. Till then, many countries were not democracies and many still didn't allow women to vote. 

The Election Commission of India prepared an official account of the country's first elections. Let’s take a look at a few interesting facts from that:

  1. The government started working on the electoral roll in July 1948, but there was no law on how to hold elections. In the absence of any rules and bylaws, the first elections were delayed by almost two years. The Representation of People Act was passed in 1950, but detailed rules still had to be laid out. 
  2. Parliamentary constituencies were yet to be finalised. It was supposed to be based on census data but the census was done in 1951. 
  3. There were many debates over whether to hold elections based on the last census report. Also, how to reserve seats for Scheduled Caste and Tribes was a major issue that postponed elections.
  4. Many states, particularly Bihar, faced shortage of food. So, the administration was occupied with relief and food supply works. This was also one of the reasons why elections couldn't be held by the end of 1950 or in early 1951.
  5. Elections were held to elect 497 candidates, the strength of Lok Sabha then. Like now, the President nominated two members from the Anglo-Indian community.

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