Lok Sabha Election? You Need Net To Catch Fishes, Eye To Appreciate Elections

Lok Sabha Election? You Need Net To Catch Fishes, Eye To Appreciate Elections

An election is coming. Universal peace is declared, and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry – George Eliot, Felix Holt the Radical

Arup Chakraborty Updated: Monday, April 22, 2024, 02:38 PM IST
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Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): More than half the people on the planet are electing their governments. The people of India are also taking part in this festival of democracy – as an election is called – to pick a government to rule the country for five years. It is well-known that in India, the Lower House of Parliament is called the Lok Sabha (the House of the People) and the Upper House the Rajya Sabha.

But, when you talk of an election in India, you often come across a question – whether you should call it the Lok Sabha elections or the Lok Sabha election?

Many newspapers write: The Lok Sabha elections. Are they incorrect or illogical? Those who favour the expression the Lok Sabha elections say because the election is held for many constituencies and in many states, there is nothing wrong with pluralising it.

They further explain that ‘elections’ also mean ‘ballots’ and ‘votes.’ So, they are right in their own way. Nonetheless, the word ‘elections’ is like ‘fishes.’ When you talk about many of the same kind of fish, it is ‘fish.’ When you talk about catching ten fishes, you mean you have a variety of trout. By the same token, if you are talking of casting many ballots on the same election day, it is an election.

For example, he voted for the local MP in the previous election. On the contrary, when you say Prime Minister has won many elections, you mean he has won different elections since the day he threw his hat in the ring. Likewise, if you are talking about many election days, you may use elections. Perhaps, this is the logic that prompts the newspapers to pluralise the word.  Nevertheless, do you say he won the elections for the post of Prime Minister or for the post of President? Any election for a big office involves many people voting in different places, sometimes with different rules and timings.

However debatable the word may be, it is ultimately one event to choose who will hold the office. Hence, election. The Election Commission of India (ECI) conducts Lok Sabha elections every five years. So, the word has been pluralised, because they are talking about a cycle of elections that comes off every five years.

There is another logic, as the general election in India is held in different phases and on different dates, the EC pluralises the word.  It is, however, a single event – called the general election or the Lok Sabha election – though the process for conducting it, may go on for several days. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (SOED) also calls this process ‘general election’ and not ‘general elections.’ If you vote in two elections on the same day – one to elect a Member of Parliament and another to elect a member of the legislative assembly – using elections is not illogical.

The style guide of the Economist says: “Elections are not always plural. If, as in the United States, several votes (for presidency, the Senate, the House of Representatives, etc) are held on the same day, it is correct to talk about elections. But in, say, Britain parliamentary polls are usually held on their own, in a single general election. The opposition demanded an election is often preferable to the opposition demanded fresh elections. And to write the next presidential elections are due in 2027 suggests there will be more than one presidential poll in that year.”

In Indian context, too, if you call the Lok Sabha elections, it may mean elections are being held for more than one Lok Sabha. At the same time, if the elections for the states and Lok Sabha are held together, the correct word should be elections. In Andhra Pradesh, where Lok Sabha and assembly elections are being held together, the word may be pluralised. Ergo, when you say the EC is conducting the Lok Sabha election, you mean the general election, as SOED explains. But, when an election means votes or ballots or polls, it is elections. So, it depends on what you think. Once Nicaraguan president Anastasio Somoza (1925-80) wrote: “You won the elections, but I won the count.” He perhaps meant ballots or votes.     

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