Simultaneous elections are held once every five years for the Lok Sabha, State Legislative Assemblies, Panchayats, and Urban Local Bodies. The idea of holding elections concurrently has gained traction after being championed by India’s Prime Minister and former President. However, political parties are divided on whether simultaneous elections should be held.
Kashmir’s political parties recently urged the Election Commission of India (ECI) to hold assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir concurrently with the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
The Law Commission of India has also proposed holding simultaneous state and general elections and has solicited public feedback on its recommendations. During India’s first two decades of independence, simultaneous elections were held.
Advantages of Simultaneous Elections:
- Governance and consistency: o Instead of constantly campaigning, the ruling parties will be able to focus on legislation and governance.
- Parties and workers who spend too much time and money on electioneering can use the time for social work and outreach to the grassroots.
- Overcoming the “policy paralysis and governance deficit” caused by the imposition of the Model Code of Conduct during election season, which halts all developmental activities in that area and has an impact on the bureaucracy’s functioning.
- Reduced Financial and Administrative Expenditure: o The entire State and District level administrative and security machinery will be preoccupied with the conduct of elections twice every five years, as is the current practise.
- Expenditure can be reduced by holding concurrent elections.
- It is believed that critical manpower is frequently deployed on election duties for an extended period of time. If elections are held concurrently, this manpower will be freed up for other important tasks.
- For example, the Central Armed Police Force deployed 1077 in situ companies and 1349 mobile companies for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, which were held alongside four state assemblies (CAPF).
- Policy and programme continuity:
o Will limit the disruption to normal public life caused by elections, such as increased traffic and noise pollution.
- A large number of teachers are involved in the electoral process, which has the greatest impact on the education sector.
- Governance Efficiency:
o Simultaneous elections can bring much-needed operational efficiency to this exercise.
Government populist measures will be reduced.
- Curbs Vices:
- There is an increase in “vices” such as communalism, casteism, corruption, and crony capitalism during frequent elections.
- Simultaneous elections can also be used to combat corruption and create a more conducive socioeconomic environment.
- Because all elections are held at the same time, the impact of black money on voters will be reduced.
Problems with simultaneous elections:
- Illiteracy: Not all voters are well-educated enough to know who to vote for. They may become confused and not know whether they are voting for candidates running for assembly or parliament.
- According to an IDFC study, when elections are held concurrently, 77% of Indian voters will vote for the same party at the state and national levels.
- Evidence from Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Germany, the United States, and Europe supports the idea that simultaneous elections produce greater alignment between national and regional election outcomes.
- Functional issues:
o Frequent elections reconnect politicians with voters, create jobs, and prevent voters from confusing local and national issues.
- There aren’t enough security and administrative personnel to hold simultaneous free and fair elections across the country.
- Constitutional and legislative changes:
o The following constitutional amendments are required:
- Amendments to the following articles are required: Article 83, which deals with the duration of Houses of Parliament, requires an amendment.
- Article 85 (on the president’s dissolution of the Lok Sabha) Article 172 (on the duration of state legislatures) Article 174 (on the dissolution of state assemblies) Article 356 (on President’s Rule)
- The Representation of the People Act, 1951 Act would need to be amended to include provisions for tenure stability in both parliament and assemblies. This should include the following essential components:
- Restructuring the ECI’s powers and functions to facilitate the procedures required for simultaneous elections.
- Section 2 of the 1951 act can be amended to include a definition of simultaneous election.
- Articles 83 and 172, as well as articles 14 and 15, of the 1951 Act, be appropriately amended to include a provision regarding the remainder of the term, i.e., after mid-term elections, the new loksabha/assembly so constituted shall be only for the remainder of the term of the previous loksabha or assembly, and not for a fresh term of five years.
- Constructive vote of no confidence:
o According to the 170th Law Commission report, a new rule, rule 198-A, must be added to the rules of procedure and conduct of business in Lok Sabha, as well as similar amendments to such rules in state legislatures.
- According to the report, a motion of no confidence in the incumbent government, as well as a motion of confidence in the alternative government, should be introduced.
- In order to avoid premature dissolution of the house/state assembly in the case of a Hung parliament/assembly and to advance simultaneous elections, the rigour of the anti-defection law outlined in the tenth schedule be removed as an exception.
- Local and national issues will become entangled, distorting priorities.
- The terms of various state governments end on different dates and years.
- Constitutional spirit: “One nation, one election” would make sense if India were a unitary state. As a result, “one nation, one vote” is anti-democratic.
- Simultaneous elections jeopardise our democracy’s federal character.
- Regular elections serve as checks and balances on the performance of elected representatives.
- Any changes must be accompanied by a constitutional amendment as well as judicial approval that they do not violate the Constitution’s “basic structure.”
- To work out appropriate implementation details, a focused group of constitutional experts, think tanks, government officials, and political party representatives should be formed.
- Other options for reducing election-related costs include:
- State funding of elections;
- Decriminalization of politics;
- Increasing transparency in political funding; and
- Establishing a National Electoral Fund to which all donors can contribute.
- A one-year election, as proposed by the Election Commission, can be carried out by amending Section 15 of the RP Act 1951. If the six-month deadline is extended to nine or ten months, elections for all states whose terms expire in a year can be held concurrently.
- The Law Commission of India addressed the issue of premature and frequent elections in its 1999 report. It had suggested that this rule be amended along the lines of the German Constitution, which states that the leader of the party seeking to replace the chancellor must move the no-confidence motion alongside the confidence motion. If the motions pass, the president names him chancellor.
- If such a change is made to Rule 198, the Lok Sabha will avoid premature dissolution without undermining the cardinal principle of democracy, which is a government formed with the consent of the people’s representatives through periodic elections.
- It will also be consistent with the notion of the government’s collective responsibility to the House, as stated in Article 75 (3) of the Constitution.
- The Election Commission’s idea of “one year one election” will be better suited because it will require fewer constitutional amendments, it will respect the essence of popular will, unlike one nation one election, which prioritises economic costs of elections over the exercise itself, it will avoid clubbing of national and state issues, it will not disrupt federalism much, and it will not generate many issues generated by emergencies such as the need to hold by-elections, etc.