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Simultaneous elections: an Analysis

Context:

  • Recently, the Law Commission invited political parties to a consultation on the simultaneous elections proposal.

Simultaneous elections

  • It refers to holding elections to Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies simultaneously, once in a five year.

  • The idea of simultaneous elections is not new to India.
  • In 1999, the Law Commission had given its views on holding simultaneous elections in Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.
  • In Recent times, the idea got support from President and Prime Minister. President Pranab Mukherjee has endorsed the idea by mentioning it in his address to the joint session of the parliament ahead of the budget session.
  • At the recently held consultation of the Law Commission of India Political parties were divided on the issue of holding simultaneous elections, with four parties supporting and nine opposing it at the consultation organized by the Law Commission.

Need for holding simultaneous elections:

  1. Reduction in expenditure: It would regulate massive amount of expenditure required in multiple elections.
  2. Model Code of Conduct: This would curb the policy paralysis that occurs because of implementation of Model Code of Conduct.
  3. Delivery of services: This would not impact delivery of services as the staff would be only engaged once for the process.
  4. Reduce burden on manpower: It would reduce the burden on manpower resources of country.
  5. Stability in governance: It will ensure stability and lesser disruption in the normal functioning. Continuous elections have an impact on the functioning of essential services. The rallies cause traffic problems as well as loss of productivity.  This was even mentioned in the 117th report on Reform and Electoral Laws (1999) by the Law Commission of India.
  6. Good governance: If all elections are held in one particular year, it will give a clear four years to the political parties to focus on good governance.
  7. Prevents wastage of resources: Multiple elections unnecessarily exploit resources needed to conduct elections. Simultaneous elections thus saves resources both manpower and resource deployment.
  8. Time saving: Multiple elections in a year lead to time consumption as the whole process of conducting elections is repeated.
  9. Cause harm to education sector: Over a crore government employees, including a large number of teachers, are involved in the electoral process. Thus, the continuous exercise causes maximum harm to the education sector
  10. Black money- when simultaneous elections took place EC can effectively monitor black money and other means to resorted influence people.

Recommendations

NITI Aayog

The NITI Aayog on its part also released a discussion paper on the subject.

  • The Niti Aayog has advocated “fixed tenures” for the Lok Sabha and state assemblies to “sustain the electoral cycle” if simultaneous elections have to be held across the country.
  • NITI Aayog examined the feasability of Simultaneous elections. It recommended conducting elections in 2 cycles. One in the mid-term of lok sabha period (2.5 years) and another at the end of it.

 Law Commissions

Law Commission has sought the views of the various stakeholders including general public, on its draft working paper ‘simultaneous Elections- Constitutional and legal perspective’

Key recommendations of Law Commissions:

  • Simultaneous elections may be restored in the nation by amending the constitution, the representative of people act 1951, and rules of procedure of lok sabha and state legislative assemblies.
  • It recommends that in 2019, the elections could be held in phases.
  • In the first phase, it says, elections to the legislatures which are scheduled to go for polls synchronous with the Lok Sabha in 2019 could be held together.
  • The rest of the States could go to elections in proximity with the Lok Sabha elections of 2024.
  • Citing no-confidence motion and premature dissolution of House as major roadblocks to simultaneous elections, the commission says the parties which introduce the no-confidence motion should simultaneously give a suggestion for an alternative government.
  • It even suggests the relaxation of the “rigours” of the anti-defection law in the Tenth Schedule to prevent a stalemate in the Lok Sabha or Assemblies in case of a hung Parliament or Assembly.
  • The commission says the Centre should get the Constitutional amendments, if agreed upon, to be ratified by all the States so as to avoid any challenge to them.
  • It also says that the Prime Minister/Chief Minister should be “elected” to lead by the full House like the Lok Sabha Speaker.

Challenges in implementation of Simultaneous elections

  • The biggest challenge to simultaneous polls lies in getting all parties political consensus to bring amendment in the law.
  • Administrative hassles in managing all elections at same time.
  • The breaking of state assembly before the term period of 5 years and would break the cycle.
  • To conduct simultaneous elections, lot of political will is required.
  • The idea is against the federal democracy.
  • Critics say amending the Constitution to effect simultaneous elections would fundamentally alter its democratic and federal character. India is a “Union of States”, states have their own directly elected governments, and fixing a term adversely affects this right.
  • Not all voters are highly educated to know who to vote for. They may get confused and may not know whether they are voting for candidates contesting assembly or parliament elections.
  • The issue of logistics and requirement of security personnel, election and administrative officials needs to be considered.
  • Local or regional issues might overshadow national issues if simultaneous elections are conducted.
  • Conducting elections at all places simultaneously will require more vigilance from intelligence officers and security personnel. Lack of which can lead to law and order problems.

Way ahead:

  • The recommendations of Parliamentary panel like elections of legislative assemblies whose term ends six months before/after the general elections to lok sabha should be clubbed together.
  • The government should start with ‘one year one election’ as suggested by election commission
  • “Constructive vote of no confidence” along the lines of Germany as suggested by NITI Aayog should be incorporated
  • In order to clean up election process simultaneous focus should be on other election reform process to make election more free and fair.

 

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