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Editorial: Simultaneous Elections: Not Even an Idea for Debate

Port Wings, 29 August 2018:

Though the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commission of India categorically rejected the idea of holding simultaneous elections in the country citing procedural issues, the debate is still on and refuses to die down anytime sooner.

For the last few months, the ruling party and its allies are vociferously projecting the concept by saying that it would reduce burden on government financially as well as avoid governance problems.

However, the categorical denial by the CEC few days ago by saying that such simultaneous process cannot be taken this time due to lesser time available for next general elections in 2019, is not going well with the BJP.

It is a fact that a solid push by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government for simultaneous elections at the Centre and the states has gathered pace. A year ago, NITI Aayog also argued in favour of the proposal by reiterating all the arguments that BJP and PM Modi had made.

One of the primary movers for this simultaneous action was to do away with policy paralysis every now and then due to elections in important states.

The supporters of this proposal even suggested that imposing a uniform calendar on elections for the Centre and the states and holding these synchronized elections every five years would involve saving money and administrative expense.

Whether this proposal will see light of the day, the Law Commission has invited political parties to a consultation on this.

It is a hard and undeniable fact that simultaneous elections into India’s political structure would require radical constitutional amendments, and doing so is not that easy given the dying months of ruling NDA in this period.

Apart from logistical considerations, which cannot be a serious reason for a major change to the basic structure of the Indian polity, the most compelling argument in favour of simultaneous elections is the  Modi’s intention of “one nation, one election” much like “one nation, one tax,” – GST.

Though goods and services tax (GST) came into force via its own constitutional amendment on 1 July 2017, 100 percent penetration of GST is yet to materialize and that one nation-one tax still a mirage. BJP feels that simultaneous elections would help them to concentrate 200 percent once in five years and reap benefit for democracy.

The concept of simultaneous elections fundamentally runs against the very constitution and Westminster-style federal political union. In a simple term, “one nation, one election” is not only anti-democratic, but also aimed at stealing the mandate from voters.

If simultaneous elections are held, national issues would tend to come to the fore and drown out issues of regional interest. While the ECI laid the issue to rest for a time being, who knows it may come up as a big electoral promise by ruling BJP in 2019 elections?

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