Simultaneous polls: Authoritarian idea

The Law Commission’s working paper on simultaneous elections details a proposal which has been widely discussed in the past few months without getting much support. The BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have strongly advocated the idea of holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies. The prime minister even wants elections to local self-government bodies to be held with the other elections. The arguments in favour of the idea are known, but they are not very persuasive and convincing. The counter-arguments are stronger. The Election Commission has said that it would be ready to conduct the elections if the legal requirements are met. The Law Commission has now fleshed out the proposal, explaining the constitutional and legal groundwork that has to be done, and has even laid a roadmap for implementation.

The claimed advantages of simultaneous elections are that they will avoid frequent elections, save a lot of money, ensure political stability by giving legislatures a fixed tenure and help governments to focus on governance without being distracted by populist temptations or constrained by the model code of conduct. But election expenditure is not actually very high even now. In any case, democracy does not come cheap. The other claimed benefits are also not real because instability and the challenges to governance are part of the democratic culture and practice. They are what compel even strong leaders and governments to learn the way of consensus. The Law Commission has suggested a whole lot of changes to the Constitution and other laws to implement the proposal. Such wholesale changes are not worth making for this dubious proposal. The recommendations include a “constructive” vote of no-confidence, which will produce a new government when one government is voted out; mandatory election of a new leader to avoid premature dissolution of the House; and, most undesirably, empowering the governor to appoint a leader when one government loses its majority. The commission has even formed a blueprint for a phased implementation. It seems to have already made up its mind first and then sought public comments on the proposal.

Simultaneous elections are a political proposal and the prime minister and the BJP are pushing it because it is expected to help the party. The expectation is that being the dominant national party, the BJP can influence results at the state level if elections are held simultaneously. But the idea militates against the federal spirit of the polity, which has a lively and diverse political culture. It is against the idea of a representative and responsive democratic system. With its accent on stability, convenience and inexpensive governance, the proposal is basically authoritarian. Democracy loses its spirit when it is controlled and over-regulated.

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 1

    Angry

Comments:

Simultaneous polls: Authoritarian idea

0 comments

Write the first review for this !