Simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies

The idea of simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and to the state Legislative Assemblies across the country is gaining support, even though the Election Commission of India and many states and political parties see it as impractical and even a threat to Indian federalism. Currently, elections to the Lok Sabha are held in phases spanning around 40 days, and elections to the state legislatures are held in groups such that states having legislators’ tenure expiring at around the same time go to elections at the same time.

Issues with current way of elections:

  • Suspension of development programmes, welfare activities due to frequent imposition of Model Code of Conduct.
  • Massive expenditures by government and various stakeholders on frequent elections.
  • Engagement of government personnel and security forces for a prolonged period of time.
  • Election season throughout the year encourages political rhetorics – and issues of caste, religion and communal issues prop up as part of campaigning, sharpening the fault-lines in the society.

Expected Advantages of simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the state Legislative Assemblies:

  • Reduction in election expenditure. Saved money can be spent on improving governance.
  • Reduced wastage of time in campaigning: ruling party at centre would save time by not having to campaign for state elections all throughout its term in government.
  • Minimising disruption of normal life.

Concerns / Disadvantages with simultaneous elections:

  • Influence on Voter behaviour
    • State and national elections are often fought on different sets of issues. In simultaneous elections, voters may end up privileging one set over the other, resulting in either over-amplification of shadowing-down of the local issues with respect to the national issues.
  • Threat to Federalism and political diversity
    • Constitutional amendments will we required to make simultaneous elections possible, as it will require ending terms of some state legislative assemblies before their stipulated time. This might compromise federal character of the constitution.
    • Federalisation of Indian polity, rise of regional parties, with the emergence of coalition politics and a robust multi-party system, has deepened democracy in India, with every state evolving its own distinct political scenario and specific format and timetable of political competition, and throwing its own set of priorities and issues. The idea of simultaneous polls is disrespectful of the spirit of federalism, and can flatten out political diversities.
  • Impracticality
    • Logistical impracticality is another concern. Deployment of security forces and officials throughout the country during the same time might be difficult. The Election Commission has said that it doesn’t have enough logistics to hold elections across the country at the same time. Even Lok Sabha elections are not held at once, but in phases, due to limited resources such as Electronic Voting Machines, Security Personnel, Election Officers, etc.

More related information:

The first election in independent India was held simultaneously at the Centre and in the states. But election cycles soon diverged and evolved differently in each state. The parliamentary, federal system has worked well for a country of diverse voices and many minorities.

Simultaneous elections were recommended by Justice Jeevan Reddy headed Law Commission in 1997.

Legislative Assembly elections in four states – Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, and Sikkim were held simultaneously with the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

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