Simultaneous elections, where Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly elections are synchronized, were the norm in India until 1967. However, the premature dissolution of houses led to desynchronized elections, raising questions about their feasibility and impact on governance.
- Constitutional Framework and Support:
- Simultaneous elections are constitutionally supported under articles 83, 85, 172, and 174.
- Supported by key institutions such as the Election Commission, Law Commission, and Niti Aayog.
- Reduces recurring expenses for political parties, making elections a one-time expenditure.
- Allows ruling parties to focus on governance rather than perpetual campaigning.
- Efficient use of resources like security forces and election staff.
- Conducting elections once every five years increases productivity.
Policy Paralysis Mitigation:
Frequent imposition of the Model Code of Conduct can lead to policy paralysis, which simultaneous elections can mitigate.
- Increased Voter Turnout: Simultaneous elections can boost voter turnout as people are more likely to participate when voting for both state and national representatives on the same day.
- Fiscal Responsibility: Reduces the temptation for populist measures during frequent elections, potentially lowering fiscal deficits.
- Social Harmony: Frequent elections can exacerbate divisions based on caste, religion, etc., harming social fabric.
Challenges and Infeasible Aspects:
- Operational Feasibility: Synchronizing elections may involve arbitrarily extending or curtailing the terms of existing legislatures, which could undermine democratic principles.
- Divergent Issues: National issues often differ from state-level concerns, and simultaneous elections might oversimplify the complex needs of a diverse nation.
- Neglect of Regional Issues: Focusing solely on national issues can lead to the neglect of regional concerns, which is detrimental to federalism.
- Homogenization Concerns: Simultaneous elections might homogenize the country, disregarding its rich cultural and regional diversity.
- Amendment Complexity: Implementing simultaneous elections would require significant amendments to extend the terms of houses and modify the Representation of the People Act.
- Reduced Accountability: Longer election cycles may reduce government accountability, as politicians would be answerable only once every five years.
In conclusion, while the financial efficiency and potential reduction of policy paralysis make simultaneous elections an attractive proposition, their feasibility must be considered carefully. It is imperative to have all regional governments on board to ensure trust in the process. Additionally, implementing reforms such as proper filing of poll expenditures and bringing political parties under the Right to Information (RTI) Act can complement the move towards simultaneous elections.
Another suggestion, proposed by the Law Commission, involves conducting elections twice a year to categorize states based on their proximity to the next general election, which could address some of the challenges associated with full-scale simultaneous elections. The ultimate goal should be to strike a balance between efficiency and preserving the core principles of democracy and federalism in the Indian context.