A good idea

This must be seen as part of wider electoral reforms to reduce the burden on the exchequer and improve administrative efficiency

AuthorPublished: 21st Jun 2019  12:00 amUpdated: 21st Jun 2019  12:16 am

The simultaneous election to the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies is an idea whose time has come. The concurrent poll calendar must be seen as part of wider electoral reforms to reduce the burden on the exchequer and improve administrative efficiency and delivery mechanism. At an all-party meeting convened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the first major initiative by the NDA 2.0, a majority of the political parties endorsed the idea while some opposition parties, including the Congress, TMC, CPI and the CPI (M), opposed it and raised certain concerns which need to be addressed and a consensus needs to be built. The government has announced that a committee would be formed to examine the issue and give its suggestions in a time-bound manner. Conducting polls in a fixed time frame will check money power in the elections. Transforming ‘one nation, one poll’ idea into a reality would require constitutional amendment with endorsement by a two-thirds majority in Parliament and ratification by at least half of the States. All this would call for a prolonged consultation exercise and building of consensus. The advantages of having simultaneous election far outweigh the technical difficulties that may arise because the terms of some State Assemblies will have to be either curtailed or extended to bring their election dates in line with the due date for the rest of the country.

In a country where policymaking, governance and development are disrupted by frequent elections, there is a strong case for radical electoral reform. Initially, there might be some legal, constitutional and logistic hurdles coming in the way of changing 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 the policymaking. On an average, India witnesses elections to five to seven State Assemblies every year, putting the parties in a perpetual mode of poll preparedness. It is an open secret that once the poll code of conduct kicks in, hardly any development activity is possible. 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. However, the subsequent years saw the dissolution of several Legislative Assemblies and in 1970 the Lok Sabha itself was dissolved and fresh elections were held. This led to different schedules for the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies. The fears that simultaneous elections would undermine the federal spirit and unduly favour national parties appear to be completely unfounded. In fact, it would help in better coordination between the governments at the Centre and in States. Both the Law Commission and the Election Commission have favoured the idea of concurrent polls.

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