Is PM Narendra Modi pitching for joint Lok Sabha and assembly polls? RTI indicates so

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New Delhi | Updated: July 25, 2016 11:06:42 AM

The debate on holding Lok Sabha and state assembly elections simultaneously made headlines this year. But all the debate started only after the Election Commission received a phone call from the Prime Minister's office...

Less than a year after Lok Sabha elections, PMO had reached out to EC for knowing the feasibility of conducting both the polls together. (Reuters)Less than a year after Lok Sabha elections, PMO had reached out to EC for knowing the feasibility of conducting both the polls together. (Reuters)

The debate on holding Lok Sabha and state assembly elections simultaneously made headlines this year. But all the debate started only after the Election Commission received a phone call from the Prime Minister’s office last year, arevealed the RTI documents accessed by the The Indian Express.

Less than a year after Lok Sabha elections, PMO had reached out to EC for knowing the feasibility of conducting both the polls together. PM Narendra Modi had pitched for it during a BJP meeting in March. A former Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) said that  the interaction between the PMO and EC is rare and unusual, but not improper.  “Shri Nripendra Misra, Pr (Principal) Secretary to PM, informed me that there is a strong feeling of having simultaneous elections for both Parliament and the state assemblies. He mentioned that the repetitive state elections of all the 36 states and UTs causes lots of disruption, both in terms of implementation of various schemes as well as socio-economic scenario. There are states, for example erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, where between 2008-2013, there were 60 by-elections held on flimsy grounds, where same candidate resigns and is re-elected after few months. This causes loss of public confidence besides tremendous financial cost to the state. After all, elections cost money,” reads a note dated January 28, 2015, signed by then CEC H S Brahma, states.

H S Brahma had retired as CEC on April 19, 2015. He confirmed his interaction with the PMO, “I remember in 2015, I had received a telephone call from the PMO saying that we should prepare some sort of a backgrounder on whether it can be done or not. As you know, the EC studied it and shared its report with the government. I am sure the government will take a decision accordingly.”

It was also said that EC should prepare a note to debate the matter with political parties, experts and internally as well.

Elections Commission has formally said that it is feasible for it to conduct the joint elections but also cited some financial and logical hurdles.

Why Joint Elections

Elections in India is subject to huge expense to the exchequers and by-elections or re-elections add to the financial woes. This is not the first time that BJP has made strong pitch for the joint elections as senior party leader L K Advani has started this debate in 2011.

To combat such issues, the government wants the polls to be held simultaneously. But the way ahead is not so easy. First of all, the Constitution need to be amended to extend or shorten the existing term of assemblies. Another challenge is EVMs. Simultaneously poll will require a huge number of EVMs and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) that would cost around Rs 9,284.15 crore.

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