The issue of holding simultaneous Parliamentary and Assembly elections has been referred to the Law Commission in order to develop a workable roadmap and framework. This was informed by the Union Law Minister recently in Lok Sabha.
- Between 2014 and 2022, there were as many as 50 State Legislative Assembly elections.
- The entire expenditure on the conduct of elections to the Lok Sabha is borne by the Centre. Similarly, the expenditure on the conduct of elections to the State legislatures is borne by the respective State governments when such polls are held independently.
- The Union Law Minister said a Parliamentary panel had examined the issue of simultaneous polls to the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies.
- The panel noted that frequent elections lead to disruption of normal public life and impact the functioning of essential services.
- It also noted that simultaneous polls would reduce the massive expenditure incurred to conduct separate elections every year.
- In case the elections are held simultaneously, the expenditure is borne by the States concerned and the Centre on a 50:50 basis.
Arguments in favour –
- First, frequent elections lead to disruption in public life due to regular political rallies and incessant use of loud speakers. Each time an election is held political parties collect money. It lays the foundation of corruption which occurs in government decision taking when parties come to enjoy power after winning elections. The election commission also spends money on holding elections. Large public money is wasted due to frequent elections.
- Second, policy making and social environment get vitiated when elections are held. Governments tend to focus on short term issues rather than long term governance policies when frequent elections are faced by them. This leads to poor governance. Inevitably, caste, religion, sub-caste and other divisive forces get strengthened in election campaigning. This weakens our national fabric.
- Third, since such elections are being held in some or the other part of the country all the time, operation of model code of conduct, which bars most decisions in the concerned state and all decisions which may have any effect on such elections by the centre, strongly hampers decision taking. It impacts efficient project execution and governance.
- Fourth, very large number of personnel and para military forces are needed during the elections. Each time there is an election such forces are redeployed. In many cases this reduces our flexibility to use them in other sensitive areas like the north east, J&K and left wing extremism districts.
Arguments against –
- Some people feel simultaneous elections would weaken the fabric of our federal system. When people go to the same booth and vote for both assembly and Lok Sabha together, there is a very strong chance that they would vote for the same national political party.
- The holding of simultaneous election is also not feasible in view of current constitutional provisions. It would require amendment in the constitution to provide for large change, curtailment or extension, in terms of assemblies, to align with Lok Sabha elections scheduled in 2024.
Way forward –
- We can maximise the togetherness of election to these bodies and thus reduce the disruption in our governance process. This will require provisions to ensure stability in tenures of these elected houses and giving some flexibility to EC to fix the election schedule. Following policy changes may achieve this objective
- First, provide for curtailing terms or extending it by six months of a state assembly by amending the constitution. This will give a one year window to election commission to maximise togetherness of elections. Even if Lok Sabha is dissolved early at some point in future, EC can maximise the cluster of states holding simultaneous election using these powers.
- Second, to bring stability in these bodies, we may provide for all no confidence motions to be accompanied by a confidence motion in a person and both to be voted together. Law commission and election commission have made similar suggestions.
- Third, Election Commission must sensitise the voters and reduce their penchant to vote for the same party when elections are held simultaneously by starting an education process. Such campaigns should also be also run by NGOs and other organisations interested in strengthening the federal nature of our polity.