Simultaneous polls is lame, unwise move
The move for holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies is an attempt to curtail the powers of state governments. The BJP is talking about it to confuse people and remove the spotlight from the failures of its government.
The past experience has not been good. Four general elections to the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies were held simultaneously in the years 1951-1952, 1957, 1962, and 1967. Its continuance could not be sustained due to the premature dissolution of state Assemblies. The conditions today are far worse, when unprincipled defections and floor-crossing are rampant.
Centre-state relations has been the core issue, which must be duly respected as per the Constitution. Even the Supreme Court, in the recent AAP judgment, has reiterated the essential characteristics of “federalism”.
In a hung Assembly, the problem is more severe as the aim is to destabilise the elected government and impose President’s Rule. On a proclamation by the President, both legislative and executive powers will be assumed by Parliament and the Centre respectively under Article 356.
Imagine a situation where after six months of simultaneous polls, a state Assembly is dissolved. No elections can be held in the interregnum until the date for simultaneous polls on the completion of its term. Consequently, Article 356 will require to be amended to continue President’s Rule beyond the permissible period until the next elections. This will result in continuance of Central rule over the state for many years, divesting the state of its powers under the Constitution.
What a mockery of democracy. Will it not be a fraud on the Constitution of India?
Another impediment would be Tenth schedule of the Constitution and its applicability. Either an MLA totally loses his right of dissent or his membership of the Assembly. In either situation, serious issues of deprivation of fundamental rights would arise.
In our unique federal structure, the states enjoy autonomous legislative powers in 66 subjects under List II of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, apart from executive powers. By this process, the people’s mandate to elect a state government for five years is betrayed by the Central government.
It is a tricky game to defeat the conduct of fair polls and to defeat democracy. The parameters and issues for Parliamentary and state elections are different. Simultaneous elections will result in an overlap of issues creating more confusion than clarity. It will destroy the level playing field for the conduct of fair and free polls.
The argument to save state expenditure is a lame excuse. What is propagated is far from the ground reality. It is an unwise move and not sustainable in law.
The writer is secretary (legal) of the AICC, and a Bar Council of Delhi member
It will check expenses & get work done
One nation one election” is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision. Holding elections in India is a huge exercise. Each candidate is expected to reach out to a large number of people while campaigning, which is no mean task. Candidates devote a lot of time for campaigning for their seats, during which actual work takes a backseat. The idea behind holding simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections is to reduce the number of hours that go into campaigning so that more work could get done.
Political leaders are bound to invest their precious time every time an election is held, which doesn’t just decrease their “working hours” but also diverts them from the fundamental duties on which they are sworn by as leaders. Many times development projects are halted as the model code of conduct comes into force due to a forthcoming election. Apart from delaying projects, it also leads to a hike in cost.
The second aspect, which is of utmost importance, is the transparency in the investment of funds that go into campaigning.
The Election Commission of India allows each candidate to spend about `25 lakhs on campaigning for a seat, but the actual cost comes to about 10 times more than this as a lot of money is spent on holding rallies, fuel and media campaigns, etc. Candidate and party funding is pretty much opaque in India and the source of funds is hard to ascertain. Holding elections just once will reduce the total campaigning cost to half.
Further, it will also give relaxation to security personnel who are deployed on different election duties throughout the year; they too can then be better utilised for security purposes.
Simultaneous elections would help the people think better and give them more clarity on the candidate they are choosing. As both the parliamentary candidate and the state Assembly candidate will put their poll promises together, it will become easier for people to judge them, depending upon their requirements. And if a candidate they elect fails to deliver what he/she had promised, he/she cannot give sundry excuses like funds not being transferred in time, or some ongoing election in some other state.
Simultaneous elections would lead to common agenda in the manifesto right from the municipal level to the national level. This will be an interconnected agenda and leave no scope for leaders to shirk their duties or play blame games.
Also, Mr Modi feels that through this mission, leaders of different political parties would work in tandem with each other for the benefit of the public. This will also promote long-term policymaking a habit for the party in power.
India is not the first country to talk about holding simultaneous elections; the system is already in place in the United States.
The writer is a member of the BJP’s national good governance department