The concept of simultaneous polls isn’t new to India. Simultaneous elections were held for Lok Sabha and state assemblies from 1952 to 1967 until the disruption in 1971 when the then prime minister Indira Gandhi dissolved the Lok Sabha and advanced the elections. This set in motion a long cycle of holding separate elections. But the simultaneous elections has its share of benefits.
Apart from the obvious facts – such as huge savings to the public exchequer, avoiding repeated enforcement of the Model Code of Conduct – in favour of simultaneous elections, the greater benefit will be the reduction in, what can be best called Electoral Paralysis – intentional inaction on key policy decisions by the central/state government as some assembly or local body elections are due in forth coming years. For instance, during the UPA tenure, the monthly diesel price hikes were put on hold due to an election taking place in one state or another.
Needless to say, the amount of time being wasted by politicians, including the Prime Minister, on the hectic campaign schedule – as a result of perpetual election mode – can be utilised for smooth and better governance. Once the mammoth election process is over, the government will get a complete term to carry out its functions making life easier for the political class.
However, there are a few logistical and financial barriers for simultaneous elections. Simultaneous elections can work only if each and every government lasts five years regardless of confidence. This seems to contradict the very principle of democracy. Secondly, such an exercise will require large-scale purchase of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines. The Election Commission (EC) will also need enormous human resource, from ground workers to armed personnel, at a given period for deployment to separate polling booths meant for Lok Sabha and state assembly elections.
Also if simultaneous elections are held, then for the first time what happens to Assemblies whose scheduled tenure either ends before or after the proposed date of holding elections? Should the term of the Lok Sabha and Assemblies be fixed? What would happen in case by-elections are necessitated in between terms? What happens in case the ruling party or coalition loses majority in between term, either in the Lok Sabha or in Assemblies?
We need to seriously look at the idea, rather than ascribing ill intentions to everything that comes out from establishment.