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A ballot box for each candidate...

PTI | BySukanya Mohapatra (PTI)
May 13, 2004 08:15 AM IST

A separate ballot box for each candidate in Lok Sabha polls? Something unthinkable. But that was how it was during the first Parliamentary elections in 1951 in the country.

A separate ballot box for each candidate in Lok Sabha polls? Something unthinkable. But that was how it was during the first Parliamentary elections in 1951 in the country.

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"During the first elections in 1951, there were separate ballot boxes for each candidate with the party's symbol and his name kept in a restricted covered area. Single ballot paper with party symbol and candidate's name came a few years later to today's EVMs, says an Election Commission official.

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"This system of separate boxes was used in the elections during 1951-1952 and 1957. Single ballot paper with single ballot boxes was introduced in 1962," he adds.

In this Parliamentary elections in Delhi the number of constituencies have increased to seven and 129 candidates are in fray.

The mud-slinging that we see in today's polls was also not there, as Congress virtually had no oppostion. "People associated freedom struggle with the Congress party and thought that by giving votes they were honouring the freedom fighters," says F C Nanda, 81, who had voted in the first Lok Sabha elections held in Delhi in 1951.

The main parties in the first election, besides Indian National Congress were Bhartiya Jan Sangh, Kisan Majdoor Praja Party and Akhil Bharatiya Mahasabha. However, it is an altogether different question that they were no match for Congress.

Recalling the first elections, Nanda says "there was a lot of enthusiasm and commitment in people who actively participated rather than taking it just as duty or routine."

Also, Delhi had just three constituencies, New Delhi, Outer Delhi and Delhi City. New Delhi and Delhi City were one seat whereas Outer Delhi was a two-seat constituency.

"The population was much less as compared to today, only six parties were in fray with two independent candidates," according to the EC official.

As many as 19 candidates were in fray in the three constituencies of Delhi in 1951.
There were no reserved constituencies for Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes, they were part of the two seat constituencies," says Jagdish Mamgain, a political worker in Delhi.

According to Election Commission, in the three constituencies in Delhi 31 nominations were filed out of which two cases were rejected. Ten candidates withdrew their nominations and ten had to forfeit their security money for not getting minimum votes.

During that time there was a lot of difference in the way of campaigning. "There was a grace in the campaigns, candidates were respectful towards their opponents and personal attack was out of question," says Mamgain.

"There was basically a fight of ideology and there was a lot of regard for the contestants of the opposite party," he says adding propaganda and use of illegal means started during the seventies, especially after the emergency.

Simplicity and ideology dominated the first elections of Delhi whereas we can see all kinds of glitter and glamour in this election.

In 1951, the candidates were the real national heroes who had participated in the freedom movement whereas in the elections today Bollywood stars dominate the scene, be it as a contestant or for just campaigning, says Mamgain.

"Educated class are not interested in voting as they don't have hope in any party and its leaders. But in the first elections people were conscious of their social responsibility," he says.

Now, Bollywood stars are being roped in to remind us of our social responsibility and to exercise our civic duty, our duty to vote.

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