Why simultaneous elections would militate against federalism

Source– The post is based on the article “Why simultaneous elections would militate against federalism” published in “The Hindu” on 12th September 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Polity

News– The Union government has constituted a committee headed by former President Ramnath Kovind to explore the possibility of conducting simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha, the Legislative Assemblies, municipalities, and panchayats.

What are the issues with conducting simultaneous elections?

It would result in the shortening of the tenures of all Legislative Assemblies except for those in four States: Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, and Sikkim.

In total, 17 States would experience a reduction in the duration of their Assembly terms by nearly a year and a half.

Among these, the terms of the Legislative Assemblies in Karnataka, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura, Himachal Pradesh, and Gujarat would be shortened by approximately three and a half years or more.

The government has advocated for simultaneous elections as a measure to reduce costs. A 2018 report from the Law Commission asserted that  conducting the elections simultaneously would cut costs in half.

However, these reports tend to view election expenditure as “wasteful”. It overlooks the multiplier effect and the broader economic influence of holding elections on sectors such as transportation, printing, media, and infrastructure.

Simultaneous elections have significant implications for the distinct legislative and governance levels in India.

India elects 543 Lok Sabha representatives, over 4,100 Assembly legislators, representatives for 89,194 urban wards, and nearly 31.89 lakh elected panchayat representatives. Each of these tiers has its own set of roles and responsibilities.

The significant number of representatives across these tiers underscores the importance of each tier and the necessity for competition to address the specific needs of voters.

For example, if a voter is concerned about waste management in her area, she would give a vote to choose a candidate best suited to address the local ward’s issues.

Holding simultaneous elections could potentially merge the various issues related to these three tiers into a single electoral mandate for voters. This could undermine federalism and the fundamental structure of three-tier governance.

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