Simultaneous National and State elections
The Election Commission of India (EC) has favored simultaneous elections for Lok Sabha and Assembly polls and informed the Centre that it is all set to hold simultaneous elections by September 2018.
The Election Commission of India
- The Election Commission of India is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering election processes in India.
- The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, state Legislative Assemblies in India, and the offices of the President and Vice President in the country.
- The Election Commission operates under the authority of Constitution as per Article 324,and subsequently enacted Representation of the People Act
- One of the most important features of the democratic polity is elections at regular intervals. Holding periodic free and fair elections are essentials of a democratic system and a part of the basic structure of the Constitution.
- The Commission has the powers to act in an appropriate manner when the enacted laws make insufficient provisions to deal with a given situation in the conduct of an election.
What are the major problems with the present multiple election system?
Model code of Conduct
- The argument against multiple elections is the Model Code of Conduct, that prevents the government from initiating new projects and ultimately reduces the development work.
Important news gets concealed
- It affects stability and economic development as announcements are more for the vote bank than the development of nation.
- With such a deep branched governance structure and multiple tiers of government, every year elections are conducted
- There are frequent elections in one or more states and if the elections to the local bodies are included there is no year without some elections taking place.
Disrupts the service sector
- Over a crore government employees, including a large number of teachers, are involved in the electoral process.
- Thus, the continuous exercise causes maximum harm to the education sector
- Security forces also have to be diverted for the electoral work even as terrorism remains a strong threat to India.
Why is the significance of simultaneous election?
Stability in governance
- Simultaneous elections shall ensure stability and lesser disruptions in the normal functioning.
- Continuous election has an impact on the functioning of essential services. The rallies and the like do cause traffic problems as well as loss of productivity.
Reduction in Expenditure
- It would reduce the massive expenditure that had shot up to Rs4, 000 crore in 2014.
Model Code of Conduct
- Elections in states lead to the imposition of Model Code of Conduct (MCC) that puts on hold the entire development programs and activities.
- If all elections are held in one particular year, it will give a clear four years to the political parties to focus on good governance.
Unnecessary usage of resources
- Multiple elections unnecessarily exploit resources needed to conduct elections. Simultaneous elections thus saves resources both manpower and resource deployment
Less time consuming
- Multiple elections in a year lead to time consumption as the whole process of conducting elections is repeated.
- Simultaneous elections undoubtedly shall consume less time as compared to the existing system of conducting elections
What are the challenges in implementing simultaneous polls?
Dual structure of Governance
- India has a federal structure and a multi-party democracy where elections are held for State Assemblies and the Lok Sabha separately;
- The terms of different state governments are ending on separate dates and years.
- To hold simultaneous elections, the Centre will have to make some states agree to curtail the terms of their houses while others to extend theirs.
- While extension may not be a problem, curtailment of Assembly terms may be a major issue.
- The voters are better placed to express their voting choices keeping in mind the two different governments which they would be electing by exercising their franchise.
- This distinction gets blurred somewhat when voters are made to vote for electing two types of government at the same time, at the same polling booth, and on the same day.
- There is a tendency among the voters to vote for the same party both for electing the State government as well as the Central government.
Eclipse federal elections
- Assembly elections are fought on local issues and, in the true spirit of federalism, parties and leaders are judged in the context of their work done in the state.
- Clubbing them with the general election could lead to a situation where the national narrative submerges the regional story leading to a reduced significance of assembly elections
- The biggest challenge to simultaneous polls lies in getting all parties political consensus needed to bring amendment in the law.
Several constitutional amendments are required to see the plan through.
- Article 83 of the Constitution provides for the tenure of both Houses of the Parliament (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha).
- Article 83(2)11 provides for a term of five years for Lok Sabha, from the date of its first sitting unless dissolved earlier.
- Article 172 (1) provides for five year tenure for State Legislative Assembly from the date of its first sitting.
- The proviso to Article 83 (2) of the Constitution provides that when a proclamation of emergency is in operation, the term of the House may be extended for a period not exceeding one year at a time by Parliament by law and not extending in any case beyond a period of six months after the Proclamation has ceased to operate.
- Similar provision also exists for State Legislative Assembly under the proviso to Article 172 (1) of the Constitution.
- Article 85 (2)(b) of the Constitution of India provides the President with the power to dissolve Lok Sabha. Similar provision for dissolution of State Legislative Assemblies by the Governor of State is provided under Article 174 (2)(b).i.
- The Representation of People Act 1951, which covers various modalities of conducting elections in the country, also needs to be amended.
What are the electoral reforms pending in India?
- The Law Commission of India in its report of 1999 had dealt with the problem of premature and frequent elections.
State Funding of Elections
- It basically means that govt. extending financial assistance to political parties for contesting elections.
- The objective is to control and eliminate outside pressure over govt. policies and functioning by vested interests.
- It will also help in controlling the flow of unaccounted money and muscle power during elections and control the levels of corruption in public life.
- The voting in elections to Lok Sabha and Assembly are optional in India, but it is compulsory in 33 countries of the world including Brazil, Australia, Egypt, etc
- The Gujarat Local Authorities Law (Amendment) Act 2009 has made voting compulsory in local bodies’ election.
Bringing Political Party under RTI Act
- In 2013, Central Information Commission (CIC) held that National Political Parties (NPP) are public authorities within the meaning of Sec 2(h) of RTI Act and directed them to appoint public information officer to provide necessary information as required by the citizens.
- All 6 NPP had defied the direction of CIC on the ground that they are not public authorities within the meaning of RTI Act.
Financial Restriction on Spending
- The basic rationale behind imposing the official limits on expenditure is to provide a level playing field.
- The bigger problem is that candidates rely almost completely on unaccounted cash from undisclosed donors.
- This also negates the transparency initiatives of the EC.
Voting Rights for Prisoner’s
- According to a SC judgment, prisoners are second-class citizens and therefore it is necessary to exclude their polluting influence from the sanctity of democratic process.
- It is criticized on the account that there is no-offence/ sentence based classification. It does not distinguish between prisoners, under-trials and those in lawful custody.
Use of Aadhaar
- Despite recent arguments against the use of Adhaar, under the right to Privacy act ,the Aadhaar no. has the potential to resolve the issue of migration and thus avoiding duplication
- It makes possible to enroll a person in one polling station and simultaneously remove his name from a different polling station.
- It will also facilitate easy incorporation of minors in the electoral rolls, once they turn 18
- It is basically the commercialization of news content for revenue generation by print/electronic media.
- EC wants the paid news to be made electoral offence with not less than 2 years of imprisonment so that such individuals are disqualified from contesting elections.