Election expenditures in India are gigantic which also leads to the entry of unaccounted money in the electoral mechanism . The total expenditure incurred in the last general election comes to roughly about Rs 3,500 crore. This expenditure multiplies when different states go to polls at different times . If this expenditure could be curtailed and saved, by holding simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha, state assemblies and panchayati raj institutions (local bodies) only once at an interval of five years, that saved money could be utilized for the betterment of the poor of this country.
The idea of simultaneous elections remerged in first Annual Report of Election Commission of India (1983) and later was furthered by Law Commission’s report (1999) and 79th report of Parliamentary Standing Committee (2015). In 2017, a paper by NITI Aayog on simultaneous elections was released discussing the relevance of the idea.
Why simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and state assemblies is necessary?
1 . Conducting parliamentary elections, Assembly elections and local body polls at a large scale each year in India is a costly and tiresome exercise which consumes a lot of resources.
2 . Due to elections each year, key leaders holding posts in government are tied up for months in campaigning across the country leaving the functioning of their government to the hands of the bureaucracy.
3 . Moral code of conduct also restricts a lot of economic activity and that leads to a financial dent on the economy.
4 . Massive expenses are borne to conduct Lok Sabha elections and then equal, if not more, are spent as combined exercise of Assembly and local body polls.
5 . It also gives four uninterrupted years for the government to work on the issues of the public, taking out one year for campaigning again.
What are the major hurdles for conducting simultaneous elections?
1. POLITICAL CONSENSUS
Creating a political consensus for simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies is the first and biggest hurdle . The terms of different state governments usually end on separate dates and years . To hold simultaneous elections, the Centre will have to make some states agree to curtail the terms of their houses while others to extend theirs . While extension may not be a problem, curtailment of Assembly terms may be a major issue.
2. CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
Several constitutional amendments are required to see the plan through.
For instance, Article 83 of the Constitution provides for the tenure of both Houses of the Parliament (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha). Article 83(2)11 provides for a term of five years for Lok Sabha, from the date of its first sitting unless dissolved earlier.
Similar provisions under Article 172 (1) provides for five year tenure for State Legislative Assembly from the date of its first sitting.
Further, the proviso to Article 83 (2) of the Constitution provides that when a proclamation of emergency is in operation, the term of the House may be extended for a period not exceeding one year at a time by Parliament by law and not extending in any case beyond a period of six months after the Proclamation has ceased to operate. Similar provision also exists for State Legislative Assembly under the proviso to Article 172 (1) of the Constitution.
Further, in respect of premature dissolution of a State Legislative Assembly, Article 356 is also relevant.
The Representation of People Act 1951, which covers various modalities of conducting elections in the country, also needs to be amended. Section 14 of the Act provides for the notification for General Elections to the Lok Sabha.
Example from other countries
A similar kind of election is held in US as well for the Presidential elections and the Congressional elections. Though the state elections are held separately, still it is a step ahead to where we stand.