- February 21, 2020
- Posted by: gurmarg educare
Why this debate in News?
Recently Prime Minister had voiced his support for conducting simultaneous elections in the country. While many stakeholders and experts such as President and Vice-President of India, Law Commission of India (1999), Parliamentary Standing Committee (2015), Niti Aayog (2017) etc. have supported the idea yet it has been contested and criticised by many political parties, think tanks and civil society groups.
What does Simultaneous Elections Means?
The idea of simultaneous elections is to conduct elections to Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies at the same time once every five years. In the first three general elections from 1951-1967, the elections to Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies were held together. Premature dissolution of some legislative assemblies in 1968-69 and then the fourth Lok Sabha itself in 1970 disrupted this cycle. Over a period of time, Lok Sabha and various State Assemblies have seen premature dissolution due to various reasons. This has necessitated elections and disrupted the synchronised cycle.
Advantages of Conducting Simultaneous Elections
- Reducing expenditure of government and political parties
It is becoming more and more difficult to contest elections. The 2019 general election was the most expensive on record; a whopping ₹60,000 crore was reportedly spent on the whole exercise. Given that there is no cap on the expenditure incurred by political parties, they spend obscene amounts of money in every election. It is argued that simultaneous elections would help reduce this cost. Simultaneous elections reduce duplicity of work and expenditure. For example, single polling office, polling staff, electoral roll and advertisement cost for Government and campaigning cost for the political parties.
- Frequent elections hamper the normal functioning of the government and disrupt civic life. This happens because the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) comes into operation as soon as the EC announces the election dates. This means that the government cannot announce any new schemes during this period. This results in what is often referred to as a policy paralysis. The government cannot make any new appointments or transfer/ appoint officials. The entire government manpower and machinery is involved in the conduct of elections.
- Elections are the time when communalism, casteism and corruption are at their peak. Frequent elections mean that there is no respite from these evils at all. This has directly resulted in the souring of the political discourse, something that was on full display during the 2019 general election.
- Having simultaneous Parliament, Assembly, civic and Panchayat polls once every five years and completed within a month or so would save money, resources and manpower. This, he pointed out, happened on account of a large section of the security forces, bureaucracy and political machinery having to be mobilised for up to 200 days a year on account of electioneering.
- It can help improve Parliamentary Efficiency as the opposition will be more constructive and cooperative without the political necessity of being in news.
- How will “one nation,one election” work in case of pre-mature dissolution of the Lok Sabha, for instance, as happened in late 1990s when the House was dissolved long before its term of five years was over? In such an eventuality, would we also dissolve all State Assemblies? Similarly, what happens when one of the State Assemblies is dissolved? Will the entire country go to polls again? This sounds unworkable both in theory and in the practice of democracy.
- For the implementation of schemes of the government during the MCC period, only the new schemes are stopped as these could be tantamount to enticing or bribing voters on the eve of elections. All ongoing programmes are unhindered. Even new announcements that are in urgent public interest can be made with the prior approval of the EC.
- Frequent elections are not so bad for accountability after all. They ensure that the politicians have to show their faces to voters regularly. Creation of work opportunities at the grassroot level is another big upside. The most important consideration is undoubtedly the federal spirit, which, inter alia, requires that local and national issues are not mixed up.
- The federal structure might get compromised due to the possible domination of national party democracy and regional parties may lose out in this format of the political competition.
- The problem of uncontrolled campaign expenditure can be remedied by introducing a cap on expenditure by political parties. State funding of political parties based on their poll performance also is a suggestion worth considering. Private and corporate fund collection may be banned.
- The poll duration can be reduced from twothree months to about 33 to 35 days if more Central armed police forces can be provided. The problems associated with a multi phased election have been getting compounded, with more issues being added to the list with every election. Violence, social media related transgressions and issues related to the enforcement of the MCC which are unavoidable in a staggered election will vanish if the election is conducted in a single day. All that needs to be done is to raise more battalions. This will also help in job creation.