Electoral Reforms In India

[op-ed snap] The one-election idea is a farce

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Mains Paper 2: Polity | Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The newscards discusses arguments against simultaneous elections in India, which is a much discussed issue.


Four reasons cited by the PM in support of Simultaneous Elections

  1. Massive expenditure
  2. Diversion of security and civil staff from primary duties
  3. Impact on governance due to the model code of conduct
  4. And disruption to normal public life

Data on Election Cost

  1. The Election Commission incurs a total cost of roughly Rs. 8,000 crore to conduct all State and federal elections in a span of five years, or roughly Rs. 1,500 crore every year
  2. Nearly 600 million Indians vote in India’s elections, which means, it costs Rs. 27 per voter per year to keep India an electoral democracy
  3. All the States and the Centre combined incurred an expenditure of nearly Rs. 30 lakh crore in FY2014
  4. Surely, 0.05% of India’s total annual expenditure is not a large price to pay for the pride of being the world’s largest and most vibrant electoral democracy

Effect of frequent model code of conducts

  1. The model code of conduct for elections was agreed to by political parties in 1979
  2. And prohibits the ruling party from incurring capital expenditure for certain projects after elections are announced
  3. We can counter this issue with “cooperative federalism”, where more development projects are taken by State Governments rather than Central Government
  4. And if all political parties still feel the need to reform the code, they are free to do so. The solution is to reform the code and not the electoral cycle

Other issues cited by the expert against simultaneous elections

  1. Diversion of civil staff and disruption of public life were the two other reasons cited
  2. These two reasons are very weak when measured against the costs of limiting electoral opportunities for citizens
  3. Issue of voting to the same party: all simultaneous elections to State Assemblies and Parliament between 1999 and 2014 shows that simultaneous elections do have an impact on voter behaviour
  4. In 77% of these constituencies, voters chose the same political party for both State and Centre
  5. When elections were held even six months apart, only 61% chose the same political party
  6. When elections became disparate, there was no evidence of the voter choosing the same party

Simultaneous elections will affect political autonomy of states

  1. Simultaneous elections impinge on the political autonomy of States
  2. Today, any elected State government can choose to dissolve its Assembly and call for fresh elections
  3. If elections are to be held simultaneously, States will have to give up this power and wait for a national election schedule

The way forward

  1. There is still much that is wrong with our nation in its governance and elections
  2. But disparate elections to States and Parliament are not one of them
  3. There is much to improve in terms of efficiency of our governance. But “oneness” is not the desired path to efficiency in a diverse polity such as India
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