Frequent elections can disrupt the pace of development and impede the policy-making process. On an average, India witnesses elections to about seven State Assemblies every year, pushing the political class in a constant mode of poll preparedness and to think in terms of immediate electoral gains rather than focus on long-term policies. It is an open secret that once the poll code of conduct kicks in, hardly any development activity is possible. Besides imposing a huge burden on the exchequer, frequent elections will distract the government machinery from its primary task of policy-making and implementation of welfare initiatives. Simultaneous election to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies is an idea whose time has come. It must be seen as part of wider electoral reforms to reduce the burden on the exchequer and improve administrative efficiency and delivery mechanism. Though it would be a herculean task to achieve political consensus on the issue, given the fragmented polity and concerns over possible dilution of federal spirit, a beginning must be made to build public opinion in favour of synchronised polls so that there can be a single election season across the country once in five years followed by uninterrupted focus on good governance. The Law Commission’s initiative to hold discussions with representatives of political parties on the proposal is a welcome development.
While the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), JD(U), AIADMK, SAD and the SP have lent their support to the idea, some others including the Left parties, DMK, TDP, TMC and JD(S) have raised the red flag on the grounds that it could undermine federal spirit. However, such ideas of national importance must receive bipartisan support instead of being subjected to political expediency. Initially, there might be some legal, constitutional and logistic hurdles to replace the present system but the benefits would be immense in the long run, not just in terms of reducing the financial burden but also imparting stability to policymaking. The Election Commission has also lent its support to the idea and even declared its preparedness to hold simultaneous polls. The concept of simultaneous polls is not alien to India. In fact, it was the norm since the first election in 1951-52 till 1967. But the process was disrupted in 1971 with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha. There must be a widespread debate and consultations to achieve a wider political consensus. Synchronised polls will save a lot of time and resources and free the country from the clutches of being in a perpetual election mode. The Niti Aayog has suggested synchronised, two-phase Lok Sabha and Assembly polls from 2024 so as to ensure minimum ‘campaign-mode’ disruption to governance.