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Simultaneous Polls |

Simultaneous Polls

Context:

∙ The Union Law Ministry recently informed that the Panel on ‘One Nation One Election’ has received 81% of citizens’ affirmation of the idea of simultaneous polls.Simultaneous Elections in India

∙ It refers to the idea of holding elections of Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assembly together, intending to reduce the frequency of elections and their associated costs.

∙ It is on the line of ‘One Nation One Election’

∙ The concept of ‘One Nation, One Election’ in India was followed for the first three Lok Sabha elections until 1967.

∙ However, the cycle was disrupted due to political instability and the invocation of a National Emergency under Article 356 of the Constitution.

Related Reports

∙ The Annual Report of ECI (1983): It recommended that a system should be evolved so that elections could be held simultaneously.

∙ The 170th Report of the Law Commission (1999): It stated that we must go back to the past when the elections to Lok Sabha and all the Vidhan Sabha were held simultaneously.

∙ The 79th Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee (2015): It favored the idea of simultaneous elections which was reiterated by a NITI Aayog paper in 2017.

Implementation

∙ For simultaneous polls, there has to be a political consensus about thechanges in the electoral system. Furthermore, amendments to the Constitution need to be formulated.

∙ A few of the important Articles that need to be amended for implementation of ‘one nation one election’ are:

∙ Article 172 and Article 83 deal with the duration of the Houses of Parliament, and guarantee a five-year term to both the elected Lok Sabha and state assemblies, unless they are dissolved sooner.

∙ Article 85 deals with the powers of the President to summon Parliamentary sessions, not exceeding a gap of more than six months.

∙ The President also carries the power to adjourn either House of the Parliament and the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.

∙ Article 356 comes into action in case of governance and constitutional failure in a state and deals with the President’s Rule.

∙ Amendments to the People’s Representation Act (RPA), 1951, and the Anti Defection Law must be made for organised conduct and stability in both Lok Sabha and state assemblies.

Benefits of Simultaneous Elections

∙ Cost Efficiency: India has had either a State or a national election every year for the last 36 years.

∙ This devours enormous financial resources and efforts, and the time of the government and political parties is the seeming concern.

∙ The ECI would require an estimated Rs 10,000 crore every 15 years to procure new EVMs if simultaneous polls are held for Lok Sabha and State assemblies.

∙ Smooth Implementation of Government Policies: An election held constantly in some parts of the country with a ‘model code of conduct’ distracts from governance and leads to policy paralysis.

∙ Hampering essential services: Regular elections hamper the delivery of essential services due to the engagement of public servants, including a large number of teachers, in the election process.

∙ Pressure on National Parties: The national parties are the ones that may feel the pressure of constant elections because municipal or State elections held in any part of the country involve their national leadership.

∙ Engagement of security forces: Deployment of security forces is normally throughout the elections and frequent elections take away a portion of such armed police force which could otherwise be better deployed for other internal security purposes.

Associated Concerns

∙ The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR): It expressed that simultaneous elections would lead to ‘artificially cutting short or extending the terms of elected assemblies which strikes at the root of Parliamentary democracy’.

∙ It mentioned that there were ‘serious apprehensions’ that the advocacy of simultaneous elections was a ‘sleight of hand aimed at changing the federal character of the Constitution to a unitary structure’.

∙ Hamper federalism: It undermines the fundamental principle of federalism, which constitutes a basic component of our Constitutional structure.

∙ Logistical Challenges: All states and the central government face massive logistical challenges including significant challenges that need to be addressed.

∙ Regional Variations: Synchronizing elections may not account for these regional variations adequately.

∙ Financial Implications: Conducting elections is expensive and requires significant resources like Manpower

∙ Issue of dissolution: Prematurely dissolution on account of a vote of no-confidence.

∙ Holding simultaneous elections for the whole country has many practical difficulties for the Election Commission.

∙ It raises the question if the ruling party holds an absolute majority in all 29 states. Thus, whether new elections would be required.

∙ Disadvantage for regional parties: It will help the dominant national party or the incumbent at the Centre.

Conclusion:

∙ The idea of simultaneous elections could potentially bring about several benefits, but it also presentssignificant challenges that need to be addressed.

∙ It needs the careful consideration of these challenges, as well as extensive dialogue and consultation with various stakeholders.∙ If simultaneous polls do reduce the duration of conducting polls, political parties will have ample time to address national issues and enhance governance.

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