Modi’s Simultaneous Elections push gets rival backer, but it can’t happen in 2019

By: | Updated: July 5, 2018 4:55 PM

Simultaneous Elections: Post Independence in 1947, Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections were held simultaneously.

modi simultaneous electionsNew Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the Inaugural Session of the Assistant Secretaries (IAS Officers of 2016 batch), in New Delhi on Wednesday, July 04, 2018. (PIB Photo)

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Panaik apparently shares a love-hate relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. When it comes to politics, their parties are bitter rivals in Odisha. But on matters of policy, Patnaik and Modi have been on the same page on many occasions in past. Around a year before 2019 General Elections, Patnaik has become one of the first opposition chief ministers who has openly backed the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push for Simultaneous Elections in India. This, Patnaik has said even as his party BJD and BJP would be in a fierce battle whenever next polls in the state take place.

On June 26, Patnaik tweeted his government’s support for the idea of Simultaneous elections. “Elections are essential in democracy. We are elected to work for the people.When elections are held throughout the year, It affects the development works. Therefore we support the suggestion of PM @narendramodi for simultaneous elections. This will serve the country well,” the Odisha CM said.

Interestingly, Odisha CM’s support for simultaneous polls doesn’t affect his politics in the state as it already undergoes assembly and Lok Sabha polls at the same time every five years.

Before Patnaik, several leaders including former President Pranab Mukherjee have spoken about the idea of holding simultaneous polls in the country. In fact, post Independence in 1947, Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections were held simultaneously. In an interview to Swarajya magazine recently, PM Modi said, “Holding Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha polls together will involve lesser waste of resources and enable a healthy culture of working together in the spirit of cooperative federalism for the common pursuit of India’s progress.”

A Survey in April this year said 84 per cent people supported the Law Commission’s nod to hold simultaneous polls to Lok Sabha and state assemblies. The survey by LocalCircles said that state and national polls should be held together from 2019 onwards. However, it is very unlikely that simultaneous elections can be held in next year.

Consultations for simultaneous polls are in full swing at present. The Law Commission is all set to hold consultations on the matter with all major parties on July 7 and 8. Final recommendation by the Law Panel may take months.

In April this year, the Law Panel suggested simultaneous polls can be conducted in two phases from 2019 but that will need amendment of some Constitutional provisions and ratification by a majority of states. With opposition not ready for simultaneous polls, the Constitutional amendment is unlikely before 2019.

However, even as several critics and opposition leaders hold views against the idea, there are ways in which Modi can hold truncated simultaneous polls:

– Five states – Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir – will have to undergo Assembly elections in November-December. Modi can easily opt for holding early General Elections along with assembly polls of these states. This would require Election Commission’s nod. However, this is very unlikely because the completion of first-level checks of VVPAT-enabled EVMs is expected to be completed by December.

– Alternatively, assembly polls are due in five states along with Lok Sabha elections 2019 – Andhra, Odisha, Sikkim, Telangana and Arunachal Pradesh. NDA-ruled states Maharashtra and Haryana will undergo assembly polls later in 2019. These states can simply bring forward the assembly polls to align with Lok Sabha polls.

In all likelihood, simultaneous Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha polls in a majority of states is very unlikely before 2019.

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