Should there be simultaneous elections for Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha

Note4Students:

The idea of holding simultaneous elections for both Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha has been recommended by many experts. This topic is important for mains as it is in news from quite some time.

Introduction

Some time back, honourable PM had recommended holding of simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections all over the country which has reignited the age old debate .In this article we will highlight the pros and cons of holding elections simultaneously.

Pros of holding elections simultaneously

Allow government to focus on development as frequent elections leads to Governance Problem

  1. Whenever elections are announced the normal work comes to a standstill to a considerable extent due to MCC. This means that the government cannot announce any new schemes, make any new appointments, and the district administration machinery gets totally focused on elections. Holding simultaneous elections will solve this problem as MCC will not be implemented at separate time for Lok sabha and Vidhan sabha.

Reduce expenditure on polls

  1. Holding elections simultaneously is a costly affair since in last few decades. Holding elections together reduces expenditure made by political parties on election campaigns because of frequent elections.

Allows leaders not to be always engaged in campaigning

  1. Holding elections at one time will allow the political leaders to focus more on governance rather than on election campaigning.

Increase in voting percentage:

  1. This would lead to improvement in voting percentage as migrant workers would have to move back to home town only once for polling their vote.

Reduce money spent on manpower deployment:

  1. When elections are held separately, crucial manpower has to be deployed for prolonged periods on election duty. This idea will save the large amount of money spent on manpower deployment.
  2. Overall, conducting the election once will bring down the overall cost of conducting election in terms of distributing voter slips, bringing the staff, calling the Central personnel, delay in schemes deemed as popular, etc.

Cons of holding elections together

  1. Frequent elections are beneficial in number of ways as politicians, who tend to forget voters after the elections for five years have to return to them. This enhances accountability, elections give a boost to the economy at the grassroots level, creating work opportunities for lakhs of people. Holding elections at one time will close these opportunities.
  2. If elections are held simultaneously, this would lead to mixing of national and local issues to distort priorities. In voters’ minds, local issues might overtake wider state and national issues or vice versa.
  3. Simultaneous conduct of elections would require large-scale purchase of Electronic Voting Machines and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines. The machines would also need to be replaced every 15 years which would again entail expenditure. Further, storing these machines would increase the warehousing cost.
  4. There are some Practical problems in implementing the scheme for example Imagine a scenario when the Lok Sabha gets dissolved too early (in 13 days, as actually happened in 1998), and for the sake of simultaneity all state assemblies with full or thin majority are also dissolved. And then, in the resultant Lok Sabha elections, the same party comes to power. This would be unfair to states.
  5. The idea of simultaneous elections clearly goes against the constitutional structure of the Indian Parliamentary system. For eg Dissolution of state legislature before completion of 5-year term will break the cycle again thereby rendering the whole exercise futile.
  6. Administrative hassles in managing all elections at the same time can leads to incidents of poll rigging and this will put heavy burden on the government in the fiscal year during which elections are conducted.

Way Forward

Holding elections simultaneously is marked by several practical problems which limits its feasibility. However even status quo does not solve the problems mentioned above. We need to find middle ground. Following steps can be taken

  1. It’s possible to reduce the duration of the election process by half — by conducting the elections in one day. That requires making available to the EC five times the Central armed police force that is currently provided. Raising a few battalions of various paramilitary forces will also give relief to the extremely stretched and stressed forces, provide employment and contribute to better enforcement in troubled areas.
  2. The other possible and desirable action is to cut the role of money power in elections. It requires two things: Putting a cap on political party expenditure and state-funding of political parties (not elections), with a simultaneous ban on all private, especially corporate, funds.
  3. States can be divided into two groups “ for eg. one group of states going to the polls in November 2018 and another group in June 2021. This way, there will be just two rounds of elections in the country in a five-year period. In order to achieve this, the tenure of the existing state assemblies will have to be curtailed or extended by some months.

Conclusion

The similar voting at both and center and states is a concern in case of holding elections simultaneously. Many votes do not discern the difference due to lack of education, apathy, etc. So understanding individual manifestos of the parties at the Center and state requires the different election.

Questions:

(Q) It is commented that conducting elections for all 3 tiers of Government simultaneously would improve the Governance in the country. Comment. Also highlight the Practical difficulties in holding simultaneous elections.

(Q) Discuss the merits and demerits of conducting simultaneous elections for State Assemblies and Parliament.

Sources

http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/simultaneous-elections-lok-sabha-narendra-modi-save-money-stable-government-2928409/

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/letters/simultaneous-elections/article18348658.ece

https://thewire.in/131341/parliament-state-assembly-simultaneous-elections-democracy/

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/columns/analysing-impact-of-simultaneous-polls/article9522924.ece

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