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The Law Commission has favoured the idea holding of simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies while flagging some issues that need more deliberation.
In its draft report, the Commission terms the holding of simultaneous elections as “ideal as well as desirable” provided a “workable formula” is provided in the Constitution of India.
Certain issues like whether such simultaneous polls will affect the Basic Structure of Constitution, the concept of democracy and the federal structure and polity of India, still needs deliberation according to Commission’s draft report.
Another pertinent question which remains open-ended in this regard revolves around the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution and whether it requires to be amended.
The question raised is whether the Prime Minister or Chief Minister can be appointed in the same way a Speaker is appointed in case of a hung House, and whether the same would be in line with the Tenth Schedule.
The draft report maintains that further discussion and examination of this complex issue needs to take place with all stakeholders involved before final recommendations are made to the government.
Feasibility of holding Simultaneous Elections
Delving into the need for simultaneous polls, the report underscores the continuous election cycle in the country citing the period between 2014 and 2016, which saw one general election and 15 State Assembly polls.
The expense for the General Elections is borne by the Centre, and by the respective states for their assembly polls. The report suggests that holding simultaneous polls would reduce the expenditure incurred and divide the burden between the Centre and the states equally.
“…segregated elections take away opportunities to optimise such costs and lead to yearly outflow of public money, significantly”, reads the report.
The report also touches upon arguments against the holding of simultaneous elections and states that contrary to the common perception that simultaneous polls would benefit national parties more than regional parties, the Election Commission of India (ECI) data shows otherwise.
It is also stated that simultaneous elections will ensure that the focus of the lawmakers does not shift from good governance to ensuring a win in a State Assembly, as is the case when there is a perpetual election cycle.
“[I]f the elections are going to be a once-in-five-years affair, the ruling parties can better dedicate their time to developmental activities, mandated to them by the electorate. More so there would be substantial reduction in hate speeches, violence and other law and order problems.”
Segregated polls also lead to parties adopting populist measures and a wider scope for acceptance of black money by political parties. On the other hand, simultaneous polls would not only divert focus on nationalistic interest over individual interest, but also ensure the role of black money is reduced, the draft report states. It will also increase voter participation, the report argues.
Issues in implementation
The draft has listed four prerequisites for implementation of this exercise:
As per the draft, the conditions that can disrupt a simultaneous poll cycle are cases of the no-confidence motion, a hung House or a budgetary defeat.
For achieving the purpose of the curtailment or extension of the term, the Commission states that Article 172 of the Constitution will have to be amended or an additional clause empowering the Central government should be inserted.
Since a motion of no-confidence is one of the possible impediments to the synchronized poll cycle, the draft report has dealt with this contingency. Citing a suggestion made by the Law Commission in its 170th report in 1999, the draft report states that the concept of “motion of confidence in the alternate government” may be introduced.
This suggestion can be brought into effect by amending Rule 198 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha, the report states.
“A paradigm shift of this magnitude will surely entail changes in the Constitution and other statutes”, states the report while backing simultaneous polls despite the need for an amendment to the existing legislative and Constitutional framework.
The report also stresses on the need for taking stakeholders into confidence and involving them in discussions and deliberations.
“A move towards holding simultaneous elections will have to be made after building a political and public consensus. For, any decision by the Government has to be for the benefit of the masses because after all, democracy is ‘of the people, for the people, by the people’”.
The report states that there exists a need for more deliberation on certain issues concerning federal polity, the Basic Structure of the Constitution and the need for Constitutional amendments. To add to it, deliberations involving leaders from all parties are also required for the purpose of consensus building.
The report states that the time has come for India to return to a synchronized poll cycle, as it would not only save public money, but also reduce the burden on the administrative setup and security forces, and lead to better governance.
Read the report below.