The Election Commission has supported the government’s idea to hold simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and state assemblies but has made it clear that it will cost a lot and the Constitution will have to be amended to curtail or extend the term of certain state assemblies.
Law Ministry had asked the Commission to give its views on the report of a parliamentary standing committee which had batted for simultaneous polls.
In its reply to the Law Ministry in May, the Commission said it supports the proposal but cost involved will be to the tune of over Rs 9000 crore.
Deposing before the parliamentary panel which gave its report on ‘Feasibility of holding simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and state Legislative Assemblies’ in December last, the Commission had expressed similar “difficulties”.
The Commission has told the government as well as the committee that simultaneous conduct of elections would require large-scale purchase of Electronic Voting Machines and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines.
“For conducting simultaneous elections, the Commission expects that a total of Rs 9,284.15 crore will be needed for procurement of EVMs and VVPATs.
“The machines would also be need to be replaced every 15 years which would again entail expenditure. Further, storing these machines would increase the warehousing cost,” the Parliamentary panel had said quoting EC.
Based on the report, the government has already set up a group of ministers to examine the issue.
The GoM was set up to examine an Election Commission proposal to buy new EVMs but has also been mandated to examine the feasibility of holding simultaneous Lok Sabha and assembly polls in a bid to bring down the cost involved in the democratic exercise.
While as per electoral law, elections can be held six months prior to the end of the term of a House, the term of the House cannot be extended except during proclamation of Emergency.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said during a meeting of BJP office-bearers on March 19 that state elections coupled with local-level polls, spread across virtually every year, often “hinder” the execution of welfare measures.
He was keen on simultaneous elections once in five years.
The government feels that while one-time cost in holding simultaneous polls would be high, but the exercise may bring down expenditure involved in ‘election bandobast’ such as deployment of central forces and polling personnel.