[op-ed snap] Polls Are Best Kept Apart

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Mains Paper 2: Polity | Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic Structure Doctrine, EMS Nachiappan Committee on Simultaneous Elections, Standing Committee,  Representation of Peoples’ Act 1951

Mains level: The editorial highlights the unconstitutionality of the demand of Simultaneous Elections


Context

  1. PM has mooted the idea of holding simultaneous polls in the country.
  2. The step may appear to be purely reformist but in reality, it’s an unconstitutional measure and should not be pushed down the throats of people.

Misconceptions about the ease of Amendment for Simultaneous Elections

  1. There is a misconception that an amendment to the Representation of Peoples’s Act 1951 is all that is needed for holding simultaneous polls to the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies.
  2. If the Law Ministry were to attempt such an endeavour, it will realise the hollowness of the concept.

Basic Structure Doctrine at risk

  1. Apart from the basic structure, the federal structure of the polity — itself a part of the basic structure — will collapse if an amendment to the Representation of People’s Act is approved by Parliament.
  2. The Election Commission agrees to undertake the huge exercise but the agency cannot hold elections in even three states without dividing the process into as many as seven phases

Report of the Standing Committee of Parliament, headed by E M S Nachiappan

  1. Holding simultaneous elections may not be feasible in 2016 or even in a decade.
  2. The committee, however, expressed confidence that a solution will be found to reduce the frequency of elections and relieve the people and government machinery from tedium of frequent polls.
  3. This is important for India if it is to compete with other nations in its developmental agenda.
  4. However, this committee did not touch issues pertaining to the basic structure of the Constitution.

The Way Forward: Presidents Call on the Issue

  1. President Kovind recently said that frequent elections not only impose a burden on human resources but also impede the development process due to the promulgation of Model Code of Conduct.
  2. He called for a sustained debate is required on the subject of simultaneous elections and all political parties need to arrive at a consensus on this issue.
Electoral Reforms In India
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