Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed electoral reforms of conducting simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha as well as state legislative assemblies have been left for public discourses.
The core aspects of the PM’s proposal include extending the duration of many assemblies, cutting short the duration of several others and holding polls to all of these assemblies along with the Lok Sabha elections. The suggestions, according to reformists, could prove beneficial. One of the factors is that conducting separate elections doubles the expenses. Holding the polls simultaneously could cut down the expenditures including that on the security. Another argument is related to the code of conduct that comes into effect as soon as the elections are announced. When the polls are held simultaneously, the election code of conduct will be required to be implemented only for a few weeks within five years where as these restrictions will have to be employed every time when the elections are held separate. This will adversely affect the amenities entitled for the people. Above all, the immense amount of human resource required for conducting the elections could also be saved through simultaneous voting.
The legal experts as well as politicians have pointed out that the suggestion which even though looks welcoming and feasible has some setbacks. Former Chief Election Commissioners James Michael Lyngdoh and S Y Quraishi had earlier pointed out its impracticability. According to Quraishi, the idea of simultaneous elections was “fraught with constitutional issues and administrative problems”. Lyngdoh also said that it was impossible to employ the security forces required for conducting all the elections across the country during the same period. While about 3, 500 companies of paramilitary forces are required, 700-800 are made available as of now. The Election Commission in 1999 had made clear that the huge expenditure needed for simultaneous voting alone made such an exercise impractical. Therefore according to the Commission, holding separate elections were feasible.
Elections are a process that brings out the public decision. The right to call back the people’s representatives and replace them when they lack public support is the core of the democracy. Even though we haven’t progressed to that extent, a non-confidence motion can still destabilise a union government or state assemblies. Seven out of the 16 Lok Sabhas have been suspended before their time period. According to democratic principles, when a hung parliament happens, an election should be conducted again without any delay. Extending such an indirect rule of the Centre in states which are under the presidential rule is also anti-democratic. All these possibilities make simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies, an unfeasible move. It should be remembered that the polls held in many states at different times were conducted simultaneously during the initial years of independent India.
Beyond the practicality factor, any move that curtails the prominence of polling in democracy couldn’t be justified. For the politicians, the thought that they will have to face the people frequently is much better than a situation where it comes once in five years. Just like senior advocate and former Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising said, the majority of the voters aren’t highly educated enough to know whether they are voting for the Assembly or the Parliament. It’s also not a good idea for certain parties to grab hold of both the Parliament and the state assemblies by spreading rigorous sentimental extremism. It would certainly be against the ethos of democracy and would also topple the Parliamentary system and the federal structure. The solid presence of regional parties adds to the strength of the nation’s federal democracy. They also represent the sub-nationalism of the state. Forcefully imposing ‘one-nationalism’ smashing all the above aspects couldn’t possibly be with good intentions. It’s also due to the strength of these ‘multi-nationalisms’, that the states could fight for their right like in legislatures like the GST. The slogan ‘One nation, one election’ is therefore not feasible given India’s national diversity. Just like Professor Jagdeep Chhokar said, while India is undoubtedly one country, the Constitution also recognises the existence of 29 States which have a constitutional status of their own in matters of elections and government formation. Therefore ‘One nation, many elections’ is the slogan that absolutely befits India.