What will happen if India does decide on simultaneous elections?
- To begin with, a constitutional amendment will be needed. The Election Commission has suggested that the term of Lok Sabha could commence and end on predetermined dates and, to avoid premature dissolution, no-confidence motions should be moved simultaneously with a confidence motion for the individual hoping to be the next PM.
- If the House is still dissolved, the President can run the government for the rest of the term — or, if that period is long, fresh elections can be held for a House that would last only for the remaining length of time. Assemblies can, as a one-time measure, be extended or curtailed to align their elections with the Lok Sabha cycle.
- Chief Election Commissioner Om Prakash Rawat, who has just taken charge, has said the legal framework needed to hold Lok Sabha and Assembly elections together will take a “lot of time” to be readied. “It is possible only when you make all the necessary amendments to the Constitution, Representation of the People Act, and other relevant laws. Those amendments have not yet been made, because you will have to take all political parties on board,” Rawat said in an interview recently. It would be “very difficult” to hold simultaneous polls in the near future.
What do critics of the idea argue?
- Critics say amending the Constitution to effect simultaneous elections would fundamentally alter its democratic and federal character. India is a “Union of States”, states have their own directly elected governments, and fixing a term adversely affects this right, they say.
- Then, there are the logistics. The deployment of security forces and officials in 700,000 polling stations located in widely varying geographic and climatic conditions all at the same time will be extremely difficult. It is precisely these problems that now cause elections to be held in multiple phases and on different dates even in the same state.
- Buying Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines would cost Rs 9,284.15 crore, the EC told the House panel.
- Again, critics say state and national elections are often fought on different sets of issues — and in simultaneous elections, voters may end up privileging one set over the other in ways they might not have done otherwise. This could lead to national issues being ignored, or, conversely, local issues being swept away by a national ‘wave’. Such a wave could be created by parties (such as the BJP in India currently) that have the capacity to launch an aggressive, expensive, and well-organised campaign, the critics say.
What are the immediate political ramifications of the idea?
- Commentators have noted in recent weeks that the escalating clamour for “One Nation, One Poll” has coincided with speculation about a snap Lok Sabha election. Several BJP leaders concede that the party leadership is giving thought to the option of advancing the 2019 election.
- Hypothetically, if Lok Sabha elections are held within a year, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya would simultaneously have new Assemblies, while Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh too will have relatively new Houses.
- If elections in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh,Telangana, Maharashtra and Haryana are brought forward, they too, will be added to the list. And in five years, if elections could be delayed in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur (or polls to Lok Sabha and the above Assemblies could be advanced), a major part of the country would be having elections at the same time.