Simultaneous polls against statute

Addressing the governing council of the Niti Aayog in Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has again made the proposal to hold simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and state assemblies. He said a “constructive discussion” has taken place on the subject and it should be carried forward, and has made known that he is strongly in favour of the proposal. He wants even local bodies polls to be held along with other elections. The BJP supports the proposal. A parliamentary committee has also supported it, and the Election Commission has said it agreed with the idea “in principle,” whatever that means. Elections cannot be held in principle. It is argued that frequent elections are disruptive, affect decision-making and cause instability and big financial burden. But there are stronger reasons to reject the proposal. 

The idea of simultaneous elections militates against some basic postulates of the Constitution. It is against the federal structure which is a basic feature, and undermines the autonomous status of the states. There is nothing in the Constitution or any law that links elections in states with those for Parliament. They envisage separate and distinctive political processes for them. The proposal presents both constitutional and practical problems. If a government loses its majority in the assembly and the House is dissolved, the people will have to wait for an elected government till the time of the next simultaneous elections. If President’s rule is imposed in a state for a long period it amounts to denial of the basic rights of the people. The stability sought to be created is artificial. The basic aim of elections is to provide a government which has a majority in the assembly and enjoys its confidence. Stability of government is not an essential feature and goal of democracy. The accountability of the government to the legislature is more important than that. The present system is best suited for a politically diverse country like India. People often vote differently in parliament and assembly elections, but the choices might get distorted by simultaneous elections.

A fixed term for governments is a very undemocratic idea. Governments should have the right to go back to the people for renewal of their mandate any time that want. What happens if no party gets a majority in the Lok Sabha and no government is formed? There is no provision for President’s rule at the Centre.  Will there be another election to the Lok Sabha and then for the states too? One way out of these constitutional and practical tangles is to have a Presidential form of government at the Centre and in states. Is Modi proposing this idea by talking about simultaneous elections?

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