Every year or two, we see elections happening in our localities. It could be for electing our PM, it could be for the CM, or it could be for electing our Gram Pradhan in the case of Villages and Nagar Sevak in the case of Cities. (1) It is we people ourselves who elect our representatives to manage our society. This right to choose our leaders, which has been used constitutionally, is the basic gist of the Universal adult franchise. In this article, we will look at what is universal adult franchise, how it has evolved, and the current state of the universal adult franchise.
Evolution of Universal Adult Franchise
Our societies developed from small groups of people organizing themselves into communities, eventually forming countries and nations as we know them today. It was a lengthy process involving many modifications before the societies could evolve into their current states.
People lived in tribes, each of which had a leader. After a few more centuries, there were kingdoms ruled by kings. Right now, there are some countries where leaders rule, and in some countries, there are kings.
However, due to the changes that have occurred in society, the people who hold positions of power have also undergone shifts, and the process by which they are chosen has also evolved.
In primitive peoples, the leadership was chosen based on his competence, demonstrated by his willingness to engage in combat alongside a capable opponent. In later times, nepotism emerged as a problem in many different tribes.
This indicates that the next closest relative of the current leader will succeed them as the new leader. It eventually became genetic for certain families to hold positions of authority. This was the case up to the kings and kingdoms. In some nations, it is still practiced today.
After some time, this developed in a different direction, and eventually, the idea of the people electing their leader came into being. The procedure for the election was not described all at once when it was first discussed.
To begin, elections or voting was held whenever certain decisions were to be made or whenever it was necessary to get the general public's opinion on something. Only a select few individuals were able to participate in this. Following then, voting to choose a representative got underway.
In the first stages of the election, the only people eligible to participate and cast their vote were a select few with good economic positions and were rich. Over time, it expanded to include information about the educational history of the people. This indicates that the right to vote was extended to those who had completed their education.
In certain circumstances, the right to vote was restricted to members of more prominent social classes and communities. The denial extended to low and neglected sectors. There was a restriction placed on the voting rights of women.
As was said above, not everyone was granted the ability to cast a ballot. People were biased based on numerous factors. People undertook many battles and revolutions to be included in the voting process.
Discrimination took on various forms depending on where you were in the world. Discrimination based on race is common in countries such as the United States.
Afro-Americans and other black people were considered to be of a lower social class than white people. In the case of India, the factors at play were religious affiliation, social standing, and economic standing.
The right to vote was curtailed only to those of a certain social position and level of economic standing. People with high education were eventually allowed to join.
Universal Adult Franchise for Women
For ages, men have believed that women are lesser beings than themselves. They were limited in various activities, most of which were chores around the house. For a long time, getting an education was considered inappropriate for women.
The position of women in society gradually improved in the years that followed the many upheavals and revolutions that women-led. The right to vote was also subject to the same restrictions.
The ability to vote was finally granted to all women in stages, following several social movements and rallies.
Initially, the voting rights for high-class white women were allocated, followed by, after many years, to blacks, marginalized, and low-caste women. The right of women to vote is still mostly unrealized in many more backward societies.
Current State of Universal Adult Franchise in India
The Indian council act of 1909 began India's electoral process. (2)
Indian council act of 1909 enhanced the engagement of Indians as legislative council members. Additionally, the Indian council act of 1909 established the Indian reservation system. In tandem with this, the idea of separate electorates for the communal representation of Muslims was put forward.
A bicameral legislature was established due to an act passed by the Government of India in 1919. (3) Direct elections chose the majority of the representatives in both houses of the legislature. This act created distinct electoral districts for Sikhs, Indians, Christians, Anglo Indians, and Europeans, respectively.
1920 was the year that saw the very first general elections held. (4)
During that period in India, the concept of a worldwide adult franchise did not even exist. After India gained freedom in 1947, the universal adult franchise was included in the country's new constitution, ratified in 1950.
The newly independent nation of India held its first general elections for the Lok Sabha in 1951-1952. More than 170 million people were qualified to vote out of a total population of 360 million. The universal adult policy was put into effect for the very first time.
The universal adult franchise in the Indian polity has been defined in Article 326. (5) This article lays out the parameters for a universal adult franchise, which will be the foundation for votes for all elected head of state tiers.
The term "Universal Adult Franchise" describes the right given to all citizens who have reached the age of majority and are at least 18 years old, regardless of their class, education, religion, color, race, or economic circumstances.
The voting rights should be extended to all adults above 18 since democracy is predicated on equality. It stipulates that every adult citizen of a country is entitled to one vote, regardless of their level of wealth or the communities to which they belong.
The universal adult franchise is also referred to as Universal Suffrage.
In a democracy, equality serves as the primary support for the system. The concept of equity is inherently linked to ensuring that every person has an equal opportunity to lead a dignified life.
Everyone reaching the age of majority has the right to vote, and there are no exceptions or restrictions on who can exercise that right. This ensures that everyone is treated equally, providing people the right to vote as a gesture of goodwill or to make them feel like equals in the eyes of the government, even though people come from different backgrounds.
When people of varied socioeconomic backgrounds, religious affiliations, education levels, and literacy stand in line to vote, it demonstrates that people of all castes and religions are treated equally.