Simultaneous elections

Utility: Direct question can be asked on this topic.
Various recommendations for Simultaneous elections of Lok Sabha and State assemblies:
  • Proposed by PM to end vicious cycle of elections in country by giving a call for ‘One Nation, One Election’. Supported by President.
  • The parliamentary standing committee on law and personnel has also strongly recommended holding of simultaneous Lok Sabha and assembly elections all over the country
  • Law Commission in its 170th report titled Reform of Electoral Laws (1999) had suggested holding simultaneous elections at all levels for stability in governance
Has it ever happened?
  • After the Constitution came into being in 1950, elections to the Lok Sabha and all state assemblies were held simultaneously in 1952, 1957, 1962 and 1967 and all the newly elected legislative bodies were constituted between March and April in each of these years.
  • However, in 1967 and 1970 due to fractured mandates and unstable governments, simultaneous elections could not be conducted after that.
Negatives of current system:
  • Impact on Governance: Frequent elections bring to a standstill normal functioning of the government and life of the citizens and bring a heavy recurring cost.
  • Impact on Essential Services:
    • Teachers lost teaching weeks on election duty.
    • Officers and vehicles from practically every other department are “requisitioned” for election duty.
    • Frequent elections also disrupt essential public work such as road construction, welfare scheme supervision, etc.
  • Frequent application of Model Code of Conduct: As soon as the Election Commission announces the poll dates, the model code of conduct (MCC) comes into operation. This means that the government cannot announce any new schemes, make any new appointments, transfers or postings without EC approval. Ministers get busy in the election campaign, the district administration machinery gets totally focused on elections
  • Huge expenses on Elections:  Example Bihar Assembly election 2015 costed around Rs 5000 Crore.
  • Increased corruption: Aggravation of vices like communalism, casteism, corruption (vote-buying and fund-raising) and crony capitalism.
Positives of current system:
  • Increased Accountability:  Politicians, who tend to forget voters after the elections for five years have to return to them. This enhances accountability, keeps them on their toes.
  • Boost to Economy: Elections give a boost to the economy at the grassroots level, creating work opportunities for lakhs of people.
  • Focus on local issues: Local and national issues do not get mixed up to distort priorities. In voters’ minds, local issues overtake wider state and national issues
  • More Democratic: It also ensures that the mood of the nation at a particular moment does not hand over political power across a three-tiered democratic structure to one dispensation or individual.
What Constitution says?
  • Article 83(2) of the Constitution requires that the Lok Sabha be in existence for five years from the date of its first meeting, unless dissolved earlier, and, thereafter, a fresh election would have to be conducted.
  • Similarly, Article 172 of the Constitution requires that the state legislatures continue for five years, unless dissolved earlier.
  • So phrase, “unless dissolved earlier”, found in the text of these two articles is against the notion of simultaneous elections in a big country like India as it is not possible to ensure simultaneous dissolution of governments.
Simultaneous polls—Lok Sabha, states and local bodies—could be beneficial for both governance and the business model of politics. It will address the issue of delayed decisions that hurt the economy. Fewer polls will bring down the funding cost of frequent polls for parties. Additionally, simultaneous polls will enable parties to create capacity, vertically integrate interests. However, greater consensus is needed to proceed further on this.