Misplaced priorities: on simultaneous polls

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Misplaced priorities: on simultaneous polls

There is no case to introduce simultaneous polls to the Lok Sabha and Assemblies in haste

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/misplaced-priorities/article28089082.ece

Why in news?

  • The decision to form a committee to examine the issue of holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies is a significant step towards achieving Prime Minister’s objective of synchronising elections across the country.

What are simultaneous polls?

  • Currently, elections to the state assemblies and the Lok Sabha are held separately — that is whenever the incumbent government’s five-year term ends or whenever it is dissolved due to various reasons.
    • This applies to both the state legislatures and the Lok Sabha.
  • The terms of Legislative Assemblies and the Lok Sabha may not synchronise with one another.
    • For instance, Rajasthan faced elections in late 2018, whereas Tamil Nadu will go to elections only in 2021.
  • But the idea of “One Nation, One Election” envisages a system where elections to all states and the Lok Sabha will have to be held simultaneously.
    • This will involve the restructuring of the Indian election cycle in a manner that elections to the states and the centre synchronise.
    • This would mean that the voters will cast their vote for electing members of the LS and the state assemblies on a single day, at the same time (or in a phased manner as the case may be).


  • In terms of principle, the main issue is whether getting all elections to coincide undermines representative democracy and federalism.
    • In a parliamentary democracy, the executive is responsible to the legislature; and
    • its legitimacy would be undermined by taking away the legislature’s power to bring down a minority regime by mandating a fixed tenure just to have simultaneous elections.
  • The interests of regional parties may take a beating, as regional issues may be subsumed by national themes in a common election.

Potential benefits

  • Curbs expenditure: There is the obvious advantage of curbing the huge expenditure involved and reducing the burden on the manpower deployed.
  • Focus on governance: The second point in its favour is that ruling parties can focus more on governance and less on campaigning.
  • MCC: The idea that some part of the country is in election mode every year, resulting in impediments to development work due to the model code of conduct being in force, is cited in favour of reducing election frequency.
    • The Model Code of Conduct puts on hold all development programmes.
    • Elections are huge disruptors of normal life — simultaneous elections would reduce disturbance from political rallies, etc., the parliamentary panel argued.
  • Government personnel: It would free up large numbers of security personnel and other staff.


  • But there are challenging questions of feasibility that the political system must contend with.
  • Tenure of State legislatures: It may require the curtailment or extension of the tenure of State legislatures to bring their elections in line with the Lok Sabha poll dates.
    • Should State governments bear this burden just to fulfil the ideal of simultaneous elections?
    • There is an obvious lack of political consensus on this.
  • Another question is: what happens if the government at the Centre falls?
    • The Law Commission, in its working paper on the subject, has mooted the idea of a ‘constructive vote of confidence’.
      • That is, while expressing loss of trust in one government, members should repose confidence in an alternative regime.
    • Another idea is that whenever mid-term polls are held due to loss of majority, the subsequent legislature should serve out only the remainder of the term.
    • These measures would involve far-reaching changes to the law, including amendments to the Constitution to alter the tenure of legislatures and the provision for disqualification of members for supporting an alternative regime.
  • Constitution: Critics say amending the Constitution to effect simultaneous elections would fundamentally alter its democratic and federal character.
    • India is a “Union of States”, states have their own directly elected governments, and fixing a term adversely affects this right.
  • Logistics: The deployment of security forces and officials in 700,000 polling stations located in widely varying geographic and climatic conditions all at the same time will be extremely difficult.
    • It is precisely these problems that now cause elections to be held in multiple phases and on different dates even in the same state.
  • Costs: Buying Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines would cost Rs 9,284.15 crore, according to the EC.
  • Different issues: Further state and national elections are often fought on different sets of issues — and in simultaneous elections, voters may end up privileging one set over the other in ways they might not have done otherwise.
    • This could lead to national issues being ignored, or, conversely, local issues being swept away by a national ‘wave’.
    • Such a wave could be created by parties that have the capacity to launch an aggressive, expensive, and well-organised campaign, the critics say.

Way ahead

  • Given these challenges, there is simply no case for hastening the introduction of simultaneous elections.
  • The government must accord priority to other electoral reforms.
    • For instance, it should seek ways to curb spending by candidates and parties, which has reached alarmingly high levels and poses a threat to free and fair elections.

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