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mains Test Series 2018
Q. Holding all elections simultaneously: Outline the issue and Comment on the debate of holding elections to Parliament, State legislatures and local bodies simultaneously.
Apr 19, 2016 Related to : GS Paper-2

Ans :

Introduction-

Recently at a meeting with party office-bearers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a case for holding elections to Parliament, State legislatures and local bodies simultaneously. It is seen in the context of administrative issues arising out of frequent and successive elections in various parts of the country.

Background-

  • In India, the first 4 general elections (1951-52, 1957, 1962, 1967) of both Lok Sabha and state assemblies were held simultaneously. But this trend was broken in late 60’s and early 70’s due to premature dissolution of some state assemblies and even Lok Sabha itself dissolved prematurely in 1970. As result, the last 48 years have seen separate elections to the Lok Sabha and the Assemblies. From 1970 onwards we are witnessing polls every year in some part of the country or the other.

  • It was the BJP’s L. K. Advani who raised the issue first and even BJP in its poll manifesto of 2009 and 2014 general election promised to evolve a method of holding Assembly and Lok Sabha elections simultaneously.

  • Also, the parliamentary standing committee of Law and Justice (which had been asked study this issue) in its 78th report recommended a two-phase election schedule to make the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls coterminous. But many political parties opposed or raised question on it as unfeasible process.

Why there is need of holding elections simultaneously?

  • The frequent elections in our country have impacted normal functioning of the government. As soon as election dates are announced model code of conduct (MCC) comes into operation and the normal work comes to a standstill to a considerable extent, leads to heavy recurring cost.

  • Frequent election also brings heavy financial burden not only on candidates and political parties but also government for managing the cost of election. The costs of election have gone up enormously.

  • Frequent elections forces central government and even some extent state governments to adopt populist measures, which acts as a barrier for much needed structural reforms in various sectors.

  • Generally elections aggravate the issues like communalism, casteism, corruption (for election expense) and crony capitalism. If the country is perpetually in election mode, then there is no respite from these evils.

What are the difficulties to hold simultaneous elections?

  • As we follow Westminster model of government both at centre and states, where government must enjoy the support of lower house, hence fixed-term legislatures is not feasible in such a system. In the event of a government losing its majority and no other party being able to mop up the numbers, it would be untenable to hold off elections for too long.

  • Fixed terms would militate against the freedom that a government has to go back to the people any time to refresh its mandate.

  • Fixed tenures will be going against the spirit of democracy, and one party will be able to run like a dictator for five years.

Benefits of separate elections?

  • As national and local issues are different, hence separate elections makes these issues do not get mixed up to distort priorities. In voters’ minds, local issues overtake wider state and national issues.

  • Frequent elections makes politicians to keep in contact with voters to address their issues on continuous basis, else they may forget voters for five years after the election.

  • Elections also boost the economy at the grassroots level, creating work opportunities for lakhs of people.

Conclusion-

There are several benefits in holding polls together for local, states and the Lok Sabha. Yet there are practical difficulties in holding elections together. It takes time to build a mechanism which is both feasible as well as acceptable to all stakeholders. Hence all stakeholders must evolve a thought process on the issue and build a mechanism, which may take our democracy to newer heights.


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