When Sudan invited India’s CEC to conduct its first parliamentary elections in 1953

PTI, Feb 26, 2024, 8:39 AM IST

Sukumar Sen (Credit: from http://eci.nic.in/eci_main/Audio_VideoClips/previous-ces.asp, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42129961)

New Delhi: India’s maiden Lok Sabha polls in 1951-52 which had created ripples worldwide also caught Sudan’s fancy and it invited then Chief Election Commissioner Sukumar Sen to conduct its first parliamentary elections in 1953.

According to the Election Commission archival records, Sen spent 14 months organising the polls in Sudan, drawing heavily from Indian election literature and laws and making suitable amendments to suit the need of the Afro-Arabic nation.

The success of the first general elections (1951-52) put India on the “terra firma” (solid ground) of democracy, according to the ECI’s archival literature.

“Numerous enquiries were received from countries in the middle east, Africa and South America for detailed information on the elections. Sukumar Sen, the Chief Election Commissioner, was nominated to chair an International Commission to hold elections in Sudan, a former British colony,” the records said.

“He spent 14 months organising the elections, modifying partially the Indian laws and procedures on the subject, to suit the need of that Afro-Arabic nation. The elections in Sudan based on universal adult suffrage were a success not withstanding its literacy rate of mere two per cent,” it added.

In 1954, when the Indian government instituted civilian awards, Sen was bestowed upon the Padma Bhushan for his contribution.

Sen, an officer of the Indian Civil Service, was the chief secretary of West Bengal when he was called to be the first chief Election Commissioner of India.

“India’s reputation as a democratic nation received further international endorsement when Lok Sabha Speaker GV Mavalankar was elected as the Chairman of the General Council of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in 1956 in Jamaica. It was the first time that an Asian member had been elected to the Chair,” the records said.

Sukumar Sen’s role in setting off the tone for the democratic exercise has also been acknowledged by 17th Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi in his book “An undocumented wonder: The Great Indian Election”.

“The first elections of 1952 under Sen were pivotal, because they set the standard for all subsequent elections. Sen started from scratch. There was no staff, permanent or temporary, no infrastructure, no training facilities, no institutional memory, as a large number of the staff who had conducted the 1944 assembly elections had either migrated or were killed in the riots. Sen started with a clean slate,” he said.

“Today, after over seven decades, the great Indian election has become a global benchmark for free, fair and credible elections. Although there have been several electoral reforms during this period, the most prominent of which is switching over from the individual coloured ballot boxes, to ballot papers and eventually the electronic voting machines, perhaps 80 percent of the system remains what its founder, Sen, had created,” Quraishi has written in his book.

India is gearing up for the next general elections to elect its 18th Lok Sabha, the schedule for which is likely to be announced next month. Last General Elections in the country were held in 2019.

By Gunjan Sharma

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