Universal Adult Franchise
Our societies evolved from a small group of people forming communities to becoming the now existing countries and nations. It is a long process and it took many transformations to become what the societies now are. People lived in tribes with a tribe head. Then after a few centuries, there were kingdoms ruled by kings. Now we have some nations ruled by leaders and kings in some countries. But as society changed the people who rule also changed, and the process of their selection also has transformed.
In ancient tribes, the leader was selected based on his capability which is proved by going into the fight with a competent. Later on, many tribes witnessed nepotism. That means the next kin of the leader becomes the next leader. Leadership or the ruling opportunity became hereditary. This continued to the kings and kingdoms. It still exists in some countries. Later this changed its course and the concept of people electing their leader came into existence. The process of the election did not get introduced at once. Firstly for some decisions or wherever opinion of people was required elections or voting for it was conducted. This was limited to a small group of people. After that voting to elect a representative began.
In the initial stages, the people who could participate in the election and could cast their vote were pertained to only a few people who had good economic status and to prosperous people. In the course of time, it included the educational background of the people. That means educated people were given the eligibility to vote. In some situations, only people of high castes and communities were given the chance to vote. Low and marginalized sectors were denied. Women were not given the right to vote.
The universal franchise which is also known as universal suffrage gives the right to vote to every person without any restrictions on age. Every person here means people irrespective of their religion, caste, gender, race, class, economic status, literacy, and education.
Universal adult Franchise means every person who is above a certain age has the right to vote. This age generally ranges between 18 to 25 years.
Achieving Universal Suffrage
As mentioned earlier not everyone was given the right to vote. People were biased based on different grounds. People had to go through a lot of struggle and revolution in order to not to be treated as biased and to include in the voting process which is the right to vote. Discrimination was different in different regions of the world. In countries like the USA, discrimination is based on race. Afro-Americans or blacks were treated as low class and whites were superiors. in the case of India, the grounds were religion, economic status, and caste. Only people with economic backgrounds and status were given the right to vote. later people with a good education were included.
Status of Women
For centuries women are looked upon by men as inferior beings. They were restricted to doing many things and mostly pertained to household work. Women were not allowed to get educated for a long time. Later after women’s movements and revolutions, the situation of women in society improved little by little. The right to vote also encountered the same fate. After many movements and protests, the right to vote for all women was given gradually. First, the voting rights for high-class white women were allotted, Then after many years, the right to vote for black, marginalized, and low caste women were given. In much backward society s right to vote for women is still a dream.
Universal franchise and democracy
Equality is the major basis on which democracy stands. Equity is tied in with guaranteeing that each individual has an equivalent chance to live a life with dignity. The universal adult franchise gives the right to vote to every person without any discrimination thereby treating all the people as equals. giving people the right to vote to show them the gesture or make them feel like equals before the government even with their differences. when standing in line to vote along with everyone rich-poor educated illiterate Hindu Muslim Christian and different castes shows that everyone is equal. Without that right to vote pertained to only a few higher societies of the country and the poor and marginalized would not be able to cast their vote or elect their representative. Without a universal adult franchise, the basic essence of democracy is disturbed.
Universal Franchise in India
In India the process of election goes back to 1909 with Indian council act.
- Indian council act 1909: By this, the involvement of Indians as the members of legislative council was slightly enhanced and they were admitted to the legislative councils through elections. Along with this the concept of separate electorate was introduced for the communal representation of Muslims
- Government of India act of 1919: Through the Government of India act of 1919 bicameral legislature was introduced most of the representatives of both the houses were elected through direct elections. Through this act separate electorates for Sikh, Indian, Christian, Anglo Indians and Europeans were introduced.
The first general elections were conducted in 1920.The concept of a universal adult franchise did not exist in India back then. After the independence the universal adult franchise was incorporated into the Indian constitution which came into existence in the year 1950. The first general elections for Lok Sabha in the independent India in the year 1951-1952 Out of 360 million population more than 170 million were eligible. The minimum age to vote was 21 back then. For the first time universal adult was implemented.
At present in India universal adult franchise is implemented in the elections for the following
- Lok Sabha elections (election of MPs)
- State Assembly Elections (election of MLAs)
- Local Body Elections (Panchayat and Municipal elections) (elections for sarpanch and corporator)
In the elections for President, Vice President Universal adult franchise is not implemented directly but representative elections or indirect elections are held.
Question 1: What is the necessity to elect our representative?
In our earlier times the leader ,the king or the one who rule is selected based on their physical strength, their kinship. in some cases like war the victorious king occupies the defeated kingdom and rule the people. the people had no interference in who can rule them. in the system of hereditary method of transfer of the authority, it is based on luck whether the person who rule them is worthy enough or not. with time this changed. People started revolting against the rulers. they fought for their rights. Eventually the person who can be their leader or king should be of their choice. With this thought evolved the process of electing their ruler in the form of a representative.
Question 2: What is universal suffrage and universal adults’ suffrage?
Universal franchise which is also known as universal suffrage gives the right to vote of every person without any restrictions to age. Every person here means people irrespective of their religion, caste, gender, race, class, economic status, literacy and education. Universal adult Franchise is the same as universal suffrage but here every person who is above a certain age has the right to vote. This age generally ranges between 18 to 25 years.
Question 3: Why is universal adult franchise necessary for a democracy?
Equality is constitutes the basic concept of democracy . without equality that means when people are not treated equally without discrimination on any grounds the very nature of democracy disappears. The universal adult franchise gives the right to vote every person without any discriminations thereby treating all the people as equals. . Without that right to vote is pertained only few higher societies of the country and the poor and marginalized would not be able to cast heir vote or elect their representative thereby emphasizing inequality. this implies that without universal adult franchise the basic essence of democracy is disturbed.