In August 12th 2012, veteran BJP leader Lal Krishan Advani made a strong pitch to the President of India for holding simultaneous elections across India with fixed tenures. He said “When for six years we were in the NDA government we actually experienced how impending elections even in a remote corner of the country used to influence decision-making in New Delhi. I feel this is not good either for governance or for the polity”. Even to this day, his words have some profound meaning which requires a certain degree of introspection by the lawmakers of this Nation.
Recently Prime Minister Narendra Modi also had floated a similar idea of holding all elections simultaneously in an all party meeting. This evoked a certain degree of positive response from all political leaders.
BJP’s massive mandate of 282 seats in 2014 Lok Sabha Elections was no average feat. Prime Minister Modi alone addressed 437 big rallies, participated in 5827 public interfacing events and traveled three lakh kilometers across 25 states in order to achieve this massive victory for his party. Now that the NDA is in power, very little has changed for the Prime Minister. He is forced to attend a marathon of rallies across various states for improving BJP’s tally in the respective states.
1) 2014 Maharashtra Assembly Election ~ 24 rallies
2) 2014 Haryana Assembly Election ~ 12 rallies
3) 2015 Bihar Assembly Election ~ 34 rallies
4) 2016 West Bengal Assembly Election ~ 10 rallies
5) 2016 Assam Assembly Election ~ 8 rallies
One might wonder, “Shouldn’t the Prime Minister’s primary focus be on running the country rather than concentrating on assembly elections ?” But ever since NDA has come into power, their biggest obstacle has been their inability to garner support in the Rajya Sabha. Congress Party’s deliberate attempts to displace the parliamentary proceedings of Rajya Sabha have seriously proved to be a fatal set back to the Indian growth story. Unfortunately the Indian Electoral system has been altered in 1967 in such a way that any ruling party has to spend most of its fruitful time campaigning for their party in respective states.
Since 1967, Indian Political Parties have encountered 292 elections (Lok Sabha and Assembly) translating to an average of five to six election in a year. This is not inclusive of Local Body elections, Panchayat Elections and other by-polls. One can only wonder how much time, money and effort has been wasted by the exchequer in conducting these polls. Although there has been no accurate figure, Election Commission of India suggests that it incurs an expense of around Rs 4,500 crores to conduct Lok Sabha elections and assembly elections in its current dis-aggregated form.
The next underlying issue in having frequent elections in India is Election Commission’s intrusion in the functioning of the government. Once the Model Code of Conduct comes into immediate effect, it is valid throughout the entire duration of polls. For example the current assembly election of five state the code is in force from March 4th till May 19th 2016. During this time period of 10 weeks (75 days), any new project announcement, tenders, allocations or even inaugurations is strictly on pause irrespective of how they might actually impact the pattern of voting.
As per Shankkar Aiyar’s article, based on the current trend in 2015, it can be extrapolated that the current Union Government will be on Model Code of Conduct for nearly 300 days due to frequent elections. So technically even if the current NDA government would want to operate round the clock for their entire duration of five years, they are forced to take time out for an entire year, in order to cool their heels.
Another identifiable advantage of having simultaneous elections is that the voters would be able to take a sneak peek over the horizon. They can try to correlate on how State and National issues are intermingled. Alliances between parties will be formed at the very beginning of all elections with more parity given to ideologies rather than having an alliance of convenience. Congress’s alliance with Left in West Bengal while going head on head in Kerala is one such typical example. Infact this might lead to a considerable reduction in the unethical acts of political horsetrading at every instance of election.
Former Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi did raise the mother of all questions to counter this idea. “What if Lok Sabha and state assemblies gets dissolved (in 13 days, as actually happened in 1998)” ? He also quoted the example of dissolution of Kerala Vidhan Sabha as it happened in 1956.
True to what he says, these two are scenarios which India has witnessed in the past. But this shouldn’t stop us from working towards a model which could benefit from having a fully functional governance model. With simultaneous elections of Lok Sabha, Assembly and Local polls, the onus is put of the winning party to either “GO BIG OR GO HOME“.