70 Years Ago, Elections Started In India On Oct 25,1951
New Delhi: The election process started in the country 70 years ago on October 25, 1951 and the results were declared in 1952 under the Indian Constitution. It was the first election to the Lok Sabha after independence in August 1947. Elections to most of the state assemblies were also held simultaneously.
Approximately 173 million people voted in that election although 360 million were eligible. The voter turnout was 45.7 percent.
One of those voters still alive, 1928-born Sultan Singh Backliwal, vividly recalls the experience from the first general election in Delhi. Backliwal, whose family has been living in old Delhi since Mughal times, later shifted to New Delhi. He owns the India Arts Palace, one of India’s oldest and most reputed showrooms for art, antiques and jewellery. Many youths like him were excited to be part of the electioneering and voting process 70 years ago.
However, more than the youth it was the women who were excited. It was the first time that all women got the chance to exercise their franchise in the first general election of independent India. “Women from Punjab — who had migrated to Delhi in the wake of the partition a few years ago — were more liberated, had more freedom compared to the purdah clad women from old Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. They were apprehensive whether or not they will get a chance to vote, whether they will be allowed to vote,” Backliwal said.
During the election campaign, there was no question of competition from the opposition as it was understood that it was Pandit Nehru who would win. “But the excitement was more due to the fact that the youth felt pride in getting a chance to vote for Nehru in independent India’s first election,” he said. Some rival candidates stood for the elections but they lost their security deposits. Nehru was, after all, a favourite of the youth.
The Congress won 364 of the 489 seats and got 45 percent of the votes polled. Jawaharlal Nehru was elected Prime Minister as leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party. In the fray were 53 parties and 1949 candidates including 533 Independents. The political parties included the Kisan Mazdoor Praja Parishad led by JBA Kripalani, Socialist Party which had Ram Manohar Lohia and Jayaprakash Narayan and the Communist Party of India led by Ajoy Ghosh.
The Election Commission had come into existence prior to the general election. The commission has the powers under the Constitution to act in an appropriate manner when the enacted laws make insufficient provisions to deal with a given situation in the conduct of an election.