Thursday 19 October 2017 News Updated at 12:10 PM IST
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Simultaneous polls: undemocratic idea - Deccan Herald
Simultaneous polls: undemocratic idea
DH News Service, Bengaluru,
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The Election Commission's announcement that it will be logistically equipped to hold simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies has revived the debate on the contentious proposal. The BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have supported the proposal in the past. The commission has said that it is for the government to take a decision on it. But it is not just for the government to decide, because elections involve all political parties and the people. Many parties, including the Congress, the main opposition party, have opposed the idea. The reasons cited in favour of the proposal are not compelling and convincing. It is argued that the expenditure on frequent elections is very high and a poor country like India cannot afford it. Too many elections taking place in different parts of the country are claimed to be disruptive, affecting governance.

But there are important reasons to reject the idea, and they are fundamental to democracy and the Constitution. Federalism is a key feature of the Constitution. It envisages free and independent political development of the Centre and the states. Imposition of a uniform electoral pattern on the entire nation violates that idea. If a state government loses its majority in the assembly, the people of the state may have to wait for a representative government till the next simultaneous election. This is unfair and undemocratic. Governments are also denied the freedom to go to the people for a fresh mandate on important issues. What happens if the central government loses its majority in parliament? Should all states go in for fresh assembly elections? There is no provision of President's rule at the Centre. Such situations have arisen in the past, as in 1998 and 1999. When elections are held simultaneously prime ministerial candidates, the ruling party at the Centre and the issues at the national level may dominate the campaign. This is bound to hurt smaller and regional parties. Issues for parliament and assembly elections are usually different, and it is wrong to distort people's choices by mixing up issues.

Politics in India is diverse. It is wrong to impose a rigid and uniform system on it. The idea of a fixed tenure is against the grain of democracy. The high cost of elections may be a reality. But democracy is not cheap, and a means to reduce cost should not lead to the denial of the fundamental underpinnings of democracy. Increasing election expenditure, problems of political funding and the constraints imposed by the model code of conduct are problems. But holding simultaneous elections is no solution for them. In a democracy, the people's unfettered right to elect a government is more important than anything else.