The Niti Aayog has favoured conducting synchronised two-phase Lok Sabha and assembly elections from 2024 in “national interest”. All elections in India should happen in a free, fair and synchronised manner to ensure minimum “campaign mode” disruption to governance, the government think tank said in its report released recently. “We may begin work towards switching to a synchronised two-phase election from the 2024 election to the Lok Sabha. This would require a maximum one-time curtailment or extension of some state assemblies,” it said. To implement this in the national interest, a focused group of stakeholders comprising constitutional and subject matter experts, think tanks, government officials and representatives of various political parties should be formed to work out appropriate implementation related details, the report said. “This may include drafting appropriate Constitution and statutory amendments, agreeing on a workable framework to facilitate transition to simultaneous elections, developing a stakeholder communication plan and various operational details,” it said in its “Three Year Action Agenda, 2017-18 to 2019-20”.
It has made the Election Commission the nodal agency to look into the suggestion and set a “timeline” of March 2018 for this purpose. The recommendation of the Aayog assumes significance as former president Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have pitched for simultaneous Lok Sabha and assembly polls. Mukherjee in his speech on the eve of this year’s Republic Day had favoured holding Lok Sabha and assembly elections together. “The time is also ripe for a constructive debate on electoral reforms and a return to the practice of the early decades after Independence when elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies were held simultaneously. “It is for the Election Commission to take this exercise forward in consultation with political parties,” the former president had said.
Modi had in February said simultaneous elections would “cause some loss to all, including us” but political parties should not look at the idea through the narrow prism of politics. “One party or a government cannot do it. We will have to find a way together,” the PM had said. Elections are held all the time and continuous polls lead to a lot of expenditure, he had said replying to the debate in the Lok Sabha on the Motion of Thanks to the former president’s address. Modi had said that more than Rs 1,100 crore was spent on the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and the expenditure had shot up to Rs 4,000 crore in 2014. Over a crore government employees, including a large number of teachers, are involved in the electoral process. Thus, the continuous exercise causes maximum harm to the education sector, he had said. Security forces also have to be diverted for the electoral work even as the country’s enemy keeps plotting against the nation and terrorism remains a strong threat, Modi had said.