Mains Paper 2: Polity | Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Not much
Mains level: Simultaneous election is a hot topic of discussion these days. It is important to know about both sides of the story, complement this newscard with one of our previous newscards on the same issue(but presenting a different view) [op-ed snap] Should India have simultaneous elections?
Main issue in having Simultaneous Elections
- The difficulties are well-known
- A government holds office as long as it enjoys the confidence of the elected chamber
- If it loses that confidence and the Opposition cannot form another government which can win confidence, then new elections have to be held
- And therefore, simultaneous elections are impossible as of now
- Some Constitutional amendments will be required(not possible in current political circumstances)
The Fixed Term Parliament Act (FTPA) of the UK
- In the UK, the Fixed Term Parliament Act (FTPA) was passed during the coalition government of 2010-15
- Between 1945 and 2010, a British government had ruled for full five years only five times
- The Act made removing a government mid-term difficult by setting a high threshold for a no-confidence motion to be passed as well as for the prime minister to dissolve parliament
- These kind of restrictions can be useful in India
- As it makes makes frivolous no-confidence motions or dissolution of Parliament difficult
- If simultaneous elections are to be held in India, some such device will be necessary
Difficulties in having Simultaneous Elections
The difficulty is two-fold:
- The idea that simultaneous elections should be held has the hidden assumption that it is the Prime Minister who will have the ultimate authority
- The proposal, as of now, does not bind the Prime Minister to a strict five-year cycle
- In a federation with a written Constitution (unlike the UK), this involves a huge shift of power to the Centre and to the incumbent Prime Minister
- It would require not just a constitutional amendment but perhaps a constitutional convention with representation from the Centre and all the states to decide the matter
- If a state government becomes unpopular, it may need to be dismissed
- If there is FTPA but the Opposition secures the necessary majority, then the winning party has to agree to serve only the remainder of the term or President’s Rule has to be imposed
Some unanswered questions
- But what if the government at the Centre loses a vote of confidence?
- Does the Opposition form a government for the remainder of the term?
- Or do we have new simultaneous elections?