Simultaneous elections: The Election Commission of India (EC) has informed the Centre that it will be ‘logistically ready’ to hold simultaneous elections by September 2018. Simultaneous elections means holding both Lok Sabha and state Assembly polls at the same. We have been hearing about the idea of holding simultaneous elections for quite some time. It is also one of the biggest reform idea Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been batting for “to rid the country from the cycle of elections”.
While talking to media on Wednesday on the launch of Electoral Registration Officer network, Election Commissioner O P Rawat said the government had sought a response from the Election Commission on the holding of simultaneous state and national polls. “In response, the EC had asked for funds to purchase new EVMs and VVPAT machines. The commission would be logistically equipped by September 2018, to hold parliamentary and assembly polls together,” Rawat said.
Rawat’s statement clearly shows the Narendra Modi government is pushing forward the simultaneous elections agenda. Some in BJP believe this is an idea whose time has come.
In an interview to Times Now last year, Modi had talked in detail about the issue. He had said, “There should be a broad discussion on this and we should not run away from the debate on this continious cycle of elections. The Indian voter today is very mature. He votes in one fashion in the Lok Sabha elections, he votes in a different manner in the State Assembly elections. We have seen this. In 2014, the General Elections coincided with the Odisha Assembly elections. The same electorate gave one judgement for Odisha and another judgement for Delhi.”
Modi further said, “So this country’s voter is very mature and we should trust his maturity. There should be a debate on how costs can be reduced by holding simultaneous elections, how the influence of black money can be curbed, how the five years can be spent in taking the country forward. Today due to the model code of conduct, there is a loss even in those areas where the code is not applicable.”
While last year, Modi had called for a “debate” on the issue, the EC’s latest statement makes one ask whether Modi government would be able to do this next year, or whether the opposition would agree without debate.
In the last three years, all initiatives of Modi have been severely criticised and opposed by other parties. So, it is unlikely that Modi would be able to build a consensus on the issue. Without the concurrence of all parties, such a reform can’t be undertaken in a democracy like India.
Another question is on whether Modi will himself want simultaneous elections next year, especially when a negative perception against the current government is slowly spreading across the country.
Experts believe that simultaneous polls may not be feasible. Some say, it would a “negation of democracy”. Last year in September, it was reported by a Parliamentary Standing Committee, headed by Congress’ E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan, that Congress, NCP, CPI, Trinamool Congress and AIMIM had rejected the proposal saying it was not feasible.
Modi has a tough task ahead, as far as simultaneous elections are concerned. It can’t be said with certainty that this should be done next year, but it is certainly a debate whose time has come.