Electoral Reforms In India

Simultaneous Elections in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- One nation one election

The article deals with the issue frequent elections in the country and highlights the need for debate on the idea of “one nation, one election”.

Need for debate on one nation one election

The idea has been around since at least 1983, when the Election Commission first mooted it. The concept needs to be debated mainly around five issues.

1) Financial costs of  conducting elections

  • The costs of conducting each assembly or parliamentary election are huge and, in some senses, incalculable.
  • Directly budgeted costs are around Rs 300 crore for a state the size of Bihar.
  • But there are other financial costs, and incalculable economic costs.
  • Before each election, a “revision” of electoral rolls is mandatory.
  • The costs of the millions of man-hours used are not charged to the election budget.
  • The economic costs of lost teaching weeks, delayed public works, badly delivered or undelivered welfare schemes to the poor have never been calculated.

2) Cost of repeated administrative freezes

  • The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) has economic costs too.
  • Works may have been announced long before an election is announced, but tenders cannot be finalised, nor work awarded, once the MCC comes into effect.
  • Time overruns translate into cost overruns.
  • But the huge costs of salaries and other administrative expenditures continue to be incurred.
  • Add to this the invisible cost of a missing leadership.
  • Important meetings and decisions get postponed, with costs and consequences that are difficult to calculate.
  • A NITI Aayog paper says that the country has at least one election each year.

3) Visible and invisible costs of repeatedly deploying security forces

  • There are also huge and visible costs of deploying security forces and transporting them, repeatedly.
  • A bigger invisible cost is paid by the nation in terms of diverting these forces from sensitive areas.

4)  Campaign and finance costs of political parties

  • There is little doubt that the fiscal and economic costs of an election are not trivial, and that two elections, held separately, will almost double costs, including those incurred by political parties themselves.

5) Question of regional/smaller parties having a level playing field

  • There are fears about the Centre somehow gaining greater power, or regional parties being at a disadvantage during simultaneously held elections.
  • However, fixed five-year terms for state legislatures in fact take away the central government’s power to dissolve state assemblies.
  •  Until 1967 when simultaneous elections were the norm.
  • The Constitution and other laws would need to be amended is obvious, but that is hardly an argument against the proposal.

Consider the question “There are huge costs associated with the frequent elections in the country. Is simultaneous elections a solution? What are the issues involved?”

Conclusion

As the elections in four states and one Union territory in March-April are suspected to have contributed to the second wave of Covid infections, a well-reasoned debate on a concept as important as “one nation, one election” is called for.

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