Simultaneous Elections is the need of hour

             Intellectuals always talk about money power but when time comes , they behave selectively with their own convenience. Simultaneous elections is one issue which can be looked from this angle. Everybody agrees that elections is root cause of corruption. At the same time, there is  no other option except elections to preserve democracy. Reforms is a regular process  which will improve and strengthen the system.  Over a period, several committees recommended many measures to eradicate corruption. Latest was the 255th report of Law Commission submitted in March 2015. Government  took half- hearted measures in implementation of these recommendations. Prohibition of cash donations beyond Rs 2000 is a welcome measure but concept of electoral bonds is a regressive step. It brought donor anonymity. People have the right  to know who donated to whom. Similarly removal of cap on Corporate donations encourages crony capitalism. Several Committees also suggested simultaneous elections and reduction of election expenditure is one of the reasons for this recommendation. Let us examine the merits and demerits in this suggestion.

         In India, up to 1967, elections took place simultaneously for both Parliament and Assemblies. That chain was broken from 1969 onward.  In the year 1999, Law Commission headed by Justice Jeevan Reddy recommended strongly simultaneous elections for both the legislatures. In fact, in the year 1992, Rajiv Gandhi brought 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments bringing sweeping changes in Panchayat Raj system. The local bodies were brought under the purview of Election Commission. So, now all elections right from Parliament to local bodies  comes under one umbrella. Recently, in Indonesia , elections were conducted simultaneously for all posts including President, Vice President, both the legislatures of Parliament, Provincial Assemblies and also local bodies that too in a single day. So, possibility and feasibility is not the hurdle. What next?

        NITI Ayog published a discussion paper on this matter. It dealt merits and demerits of the concept. As on now, elections do take place every year in different corners of the country and model code of conduct comes in to force during this period. In the present day competitive global environment, application of MCC for considerable time hampers the growth. Policy decision making and development are two important areas which are effected badly by continuous elections. If the elections are conducted once in five years,  rest of the time, country can concentrate on the development without any hindrance. Also, lot of expenditure can be saved besides saving the energy of security forces for security concerns instead of election purpose. Moreover, elections unfortunately divides the society on caste, creed, communal and regional lines which can be avoided if elections are not conducted frequently. Also, disruption of normal life can be avoided. These are certain positive factors if elections are conducted simultaneously.

       However, Regional parties and smaller parties are opposing these reforms. Their arguments are based on certain  apprehensions. This reform will be advantageous to national parties because there will be impact on voter behaviour due to simultaneous elections. They cited some examples of previous elections. But it may not be true. To illustrate, now simultaneous elections are being conducted in AP as well as Odisha. In AP, there will not be any impact. In Odisha, we do not know what will happen. Impact may be there both ways. If regional party is strong, that may impact national parties prospects in Lok Sabha voting. Also, vice versa. This argument does not hold much water except on unfounded arguments.

  Then, NITI Ayog comes out with the recommendations that two phase elections will be practically suitable instead of once in five years. That is the total State assemblies can be matched with two phase elections. That is some Assemblies can be matched with Lok Sabha elections  and remaining Assemblies can be matched in between the five year period depending up on the period leftover. And, this will be more practical, it says. Secondly , it suggests hat during this fixed five year term, if any party looses majority in legislature, no-confidence motion should be moved along with confidence motion on alternative Government. In exceptional cases, where elections are necessary it should be for the remainder of the term only . It also recommended constitutional amendments to incorporate these changes. These are certain ideas thrown before us. Why not we ponder over these ideas and come to conclusion after thorough debate and deliberations. Simultaneous elections is one of the electoral reform along with many reforms which is the need of hour to strengthen democracy.

        
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