Wednesday, Sep 19, 2018 | Last Update : 11:03 PM IST

An unworkable solution

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Feb 16, 2017, 3:49 am IST
Updated : Feb 16, 2017, 4:03 am IST

Holding simultaneous polls can’t work in India’s parliamentary system.

Elections to local bodies like municipal corporations, panchayats are all an inalienable part of the democratic process, playing itself out at the grassroots.
 Elections to local bodies like municipal corporations, panchayats are all an inalienable part of the democratic process, playing itself out at the grassroots.

Idea totally impractical, ill-conceived: Ashish Dua
The BJP and the Centre are in a habit of diverting attention from real issues and coining new slogans. After failing miserably in the last two and a half years to deliver on their promises, they have launched this trial balloon of simultaneous elections. India is made up of 29 states, and all these states have different aspirations and the issues prevailing in the states are also different. There is no way that all the Assembly elections can be conducted together with the Lok Sabha elections.

Elections to local bodies like municipal corporations, panchayats are all an inalienable part of the democratic process, playing itself out at the grassroots. How can all these elections be clubbed and conducted together?

The term, which the Centre and the BJP have coined, is misleading: “One nation, one election”. Everybody knows and agrees that India is one country. But the Constitution recognises all 29 states have their own rights in matters of government formation and elections.

One nation does have one election, which is for the Lok Sabha. So clearly to force all elections to be held at the same time seems an impractical step, given the ground situation. Also, this would move the country towards becoming a unitary state, as opposed to a federal state as envisaged by the founding fathers in the Constitution.

Then comes citizens’ issues. As a citizen I have different priorities. I know the issues of my panchayat/municipal corporation, state and country. I may like to vote differently on the three tiers of voting available to me. Now the government cannot usurp my right to vote separately. After all, India is a federal structure with multi-party democracy. If all elections are held together, there can be confusion in my mind on which party to vote at which level. For instance, there can be a party that is only active in the local body or state level but not at the Central level.

Also, what happens when a political crisis grips a state. If we take the example of Tamil Nadu, there is uncertainty prevailing in the state. It has been just eight months since the Assembly elections took place. If no party is able to form the government, what should happen? Should the state be under President’s Rule till the time the term of the Assembly is not over? That is almost four and a half years. Or should snap polls be held? These are important questions that need to be addressed before floating such an idea.

Then comes the issue of synchronising all elections for the idea to be implemented. This will mean state Assemblies or the Lok Sabha will have to be dissolved. The Centre will step in and arbitrary disqualify duly-elected representatives of the people for the so-called common good of “one nation, one election”. Even for the sake of argument if we agree that all state governments agree to dissolve their respective Assemblies and start afresh, what guarantee is there that political uncertainty will not prevail in any of the 29 states after the simultaneous polls?

This is an ill-conceived and ill-thought-out idea, and completely impractical in the Indian context.
The writer is the Congress national media coordinator

Ideal option, needs heavy sacrifices: R. Balashankar
Simultaneous polls to the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies is an idea whose time has come. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly urged the nation to think about the possibility of achieving this goal. The President of India, the Supreme Court, the Niti Aayog and many eminent thinkers and the Election Commission have from time to time supported this view and pointed out how staggered polls have often brought development processes and policy decisions to a grinding halt.

There are any number of solid reasons and rationale to hold joint polls. Many Opposition party leaders have also suggested simultaneous elections as the best option to reduce unnecessary election expenses and curbing the role of black money in polls. As such, a poll is a capital-intensive proposition. The demand for conducting polls in a free and fair and peaceful atmosphere has forced the Election Commission to conduct the polls in a staggered manner spread over a period of up to three months in a particular state or in a number of states at a time. This is to facilitate the movement of security forces, poll officials and election machinery. The use of electronic voting machines have reduced the counting time but the process between the first phase of polling and the last phase of polling and counting have become too long over a period of time. This results in additional expenditure in keeping the voting machines in safe custody over long duration.

Because of the model code of conduct, which comes into force as soon as a poll schedule is announced, all administrative and development activities come to a standstill. Of late the country is in election mode almost every year for a few months and sometimes twice a year as is going to be the case in 2017. A few months after the present round of five state Assembly polls are over in March, it will be time for next round in the yearend in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and later in Karnataka.

All these are putting a heavy strain on the exchequer and the administrative setup. The expenditure, engagement of politicians — Prime Minister, chief ministers and ministers in the campaign mode also generates huge amount of administrative disruption. Simultaneous polls will save a lot of public money. It is in this background that the Prime Minister called for simultaneous polls and he often expressed a desire for a national debate on its feasibility.

There is a general consensus in favour of simultaneous polls, but there are insurmountable political roadblocks. Practically, in the present context, it is not feasible without a great deal of political sensitivity, dialogue and give and take. Till the fourth general election in 1962, the country had simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the states, and that too held on one day. It was the advent of coalition politics and unstable governments that led to staggered polls in many states. But since 2014, an era of stability and single-party majority has become more common. However, it is not necessary that parties, which are likely to lose power, will agree to forgo their tenure for bringing about simultaneous polls.

The writer is a member of the BJP Central Committee on Prasikshan Maha Abhiyan, and Committee on Publications

Tags: lok sabha elections, narendra modi, election commission