Tamil Nadu: A poll-vault 73 years into the past

Among 2.68 crore voters in Madras state in 1951-52, 56.33% exercised their franchise in first general election.
K Kamaraj
K Kamaraj File Photo | EPS

CHENNAI: The first general election, held for four months between October 25, 1951, and February 21, 1952, had many interesting aspects. It was the biggest election held across the world at that time. The erstwhile Madras state which comprised the present Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala took part in the election, and the polling took place between January 2, 1952 and January 25, 1952.

The bigwigs who were elected from Madras state to the Lok Sabha in the first elections include K Kamaraj, U Muthuramalinga Thevar, VV Giri, OV Alagesan, TS Avinashilingam, R Venkataraman, L Elayaperumal, and PM Kakkan. There were 2.68 crore voters in the Madras state and of them, 56.33% voters exercised their franchise. At the national level, the voting percentage stood at 44.87%.

Since it was the first election after Independence, the central government had to do many works including preparation of electoral rolls and to inculcate how the voters cast their franchise. Also, during the first election, people who attained the age of 21 were eligible to vote. Interestingly, a mock election was held in various parts of the country in September 1951 to educate the voters on how to cast their votes.

U Muthuramalinga Thevar
U Muthuramalinga Thevar

The central government released a 271-page book compiling the rules for conducting elections, legislation in this regard, and the Constitutional clauses relating to the elections. The Madras state CEO delivered a few speeches at frequent intervals through the radio about the rules for conducting the elections and what should be avoided by the voters. Men and women had separate booths. Indelible ink came into being in the first election itself. The ballot paper was of the size of a one-rupee note. Polling took place between 7 am and 12 noon and after lunch break, 1 pm and 5 pm.

In the 1951-52 election, the elections to the Lok Sabha and the state legislature were held simultaneously. In Madras state, elections were held to elect 75 members. Though the total number of seats was 62, 49 were single-member constituencies, and 13 were dual-member seats where one more member from SCs/STs will be elected. For the Madras State Assembly, there were 309 seats. Of this, 243 were single-member constituencies, 66 were double-member constituencies and 375 members were elected. Of these, 62 were for SCs and four were for STs.

This dual-member system was abolished through legislation in 1961 by allocating separate constituencies for these communities. In the 1951-52 Lok Sabha election, the Madras state had seven dual-member constituencies - Tiruvallur, Vellore, Erode, Mayiladuthurai, Cuddalore, Tindivanam and Madurai.

VV Giri
VV Giri

The symbols given to various political parties included Congress — Two Bulls with Yoke; Socialist Party — Tree; Forward Bloc (Ruikar) — Human hand; Kisan Mazdoor Praja Party (Hut); Communist Party (Ears of Corn and a Sickle); Revolutionary Socialist Party (Spade and Stoker), Krishkikar Lok Party (A cultivator winnowing grain); Jan Sangh (Lamp - Deepam); Justice Party (Balance/Scale); Madras State Muslim League(Ladder); Commonweal Party (Bi-cycle. All India Republican Party (Railway engine); Tamil Nadu Toilers Party (Rooster). The symbols of candidates were pasted inside and outside their ballot boxes and also exhibited at the polling booths in the election.

Interestingly, the Rising Sun symbol which has been held by the DMK for the past seven decades was originally allotted to the party called Rama Rajya Parishad. The Two Leaves symbol now held by the AIADMK was among the free symbols (of course in a different shape).

For a dual-member constituency, one voter will be given two ballot papers with the same serial number. The voter should deposit each vote in separate ballot boxes. If they put both in a single box it would be considered an invalid vote.

At the polling booths, each candidate was allotted a separate ballot box painted with separate colours. Each box had one candidate’s name and election symbol labelled. The voter had to just put the ballot paper in the box of his choice. The ballot papers were printed in the government security press in Nashik, where the currency notes were printed.

In the first election itself, the ECI provided an option for voters who wished to vote for none of the candidates. According to that, a voter should hand over his voter slip to the assistant election officer in the booth and request him to cancel his vote. Visually-impaired people cast their votes with the help of the officers in the booths.

One of the interesting aspects of this election in Tamil Nadu was Chief Electoral Officer of the Madras State S Venkateswaran, on January 16, 1951, found that his name was not in the electoral rolls.

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