Simultaneous Elections in India: Pros and Cons

The Ministry of Law and Justice has informed the Rajya Sabha that simultaneous elections to the Parliament and Legislative Assemblies would result in “huge saving to the public exchequer”, avoidance of replication of effort on part of administrative and law and order machinery in holding repeated elections, and bring considerable savings to political parties and candidates in their election campaigns. In response to an unstarred question tabled in the Upper House, filed by Bharatiya Janata Partry MP Harnath Singh Yadav, Minister for Law and Justice Kiren Rijiju said that “general elections to the House of People (Lok Sabha) and all State Legislative Assemblies were held simultaneously in 1951-52, 1957, 1962 and 1967”.

Historical Context

  • The last time India had simultaneous elections was in 1951-52, 1957, 1962 and 1967. However, due to the premature dissolution of some Legislative Assemblies in 1968 and 1969, the cycle got disrupted.

Reasons for simultaneous elections

  • The need for simultaneous election to Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies has been felt as “elections have become big budget affair and expensive”. The Law Commission of India in its 170th Report on Reform on Electoral Laws has suggested simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and State Assemblies for the sake of stability in governance.
  • Simultaneous elections would result in huge saving to the public exchequer, avoidance of replication of effort on part of administrative and law and order machinery in holding repeated elections and bring considerable savings to political parties and candidates in their election campaigns.

Support for simultaneous elections

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior leaders of the BJP have pitched for simultaneous polls. On National Voters’ Day on January 25, Modi said the continuous cycle of elections result in politics being seen in everything while development works suffer. In his response, Rijiju said that simultaneous polls would also “curb the adverse effect/schemes due to prolonged enforcement of Model Code of Conduct for the asynchronous Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections (including bye-election)”.

The Election Commission's View

  • The election commission has maintained that it can hold the polls together. “It is up to legislatures to take a final decision on the issue,” said chief election commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar at a press conference in November. He added that subject of holding parliamentary and state assembly polls at the same time does not fall in the ambit of the EC.

Criticisms of simultaneous elections

  • The proposal have been criticised by opposition parties and civil rights activists, stating that it would provide an unfair advantage to the ruling party. Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said, “Theoretically, its sounds desirable but in a true parliamentary democratic system, it would be virtually impossible to ensure it. The governments run and fall because of democratic pressures, induced defections, changes of loyalties and myriad other reasons. How can the legislative mandate ensure that mid-term elections be not held post the government falling and be held only at predetermined times?”
  • Jagdeep Chhokar, co-founder of Association Democratic Reforms, also spoke out against the proposal, stating that it is a way for the ruling party to perpetuate their power. He said, “This is one of perpetuating the power of the ruling party’s dominance. Anytime there is a strong government, they think of doing this. At other times, when they want to change the topic of discussion, they bring it up. It’s not constitutionally possible for this to happen.”

Synopsis

Critics argue that holding simultaneous elections could potentially limit the ability of citizens to hold their elected officials accountable, as it would reduce the frequency of elections and make it more difficult for citizens to vote out officials who are not performing well. Additionally, it could also create an unfair advantage for the ruling party, as it would limit the ability of opposition parties to campaign and win elections.

While the idea of simultaneous elections may seem appealing from a cost-saving and administrative standpoint, it is important to consider the potential drawbacks and implications for democracy. Ultimately, it is up to the Indian legislature to weigh the pros and cons and make a decision on whether or not to move forward with this proposal.

Written by IAS POINT

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