Elections are the most fundamental requirement to operationalize democracy. So the way they’re conducted holds utmost importance. Simultaneous elections not only increase the efficiency of the government but also would prove to be cost-effective.
The election commission incurs a total cost of ₹8,000 crore in five years to conduct all state and federal elections, or roughly ₹1,500 crore a year. A change in the pattern of elections would lower these costs by conducting all assembly and local body elections at the same time. There wouldn’t be any extra usage of government funds and machinery.
There are usually 4-5 elections per year. The central leadership is actively involved in these campaigns. Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed nearly 21 rallies in Karnataka, 34 in Gujarat during the recent state assembly elections. Such scenarios, on a smaller scale, can be seen under the rule of the Indian Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. This acts as a distraction and leaves no time for leaders to perform the duties they have been elected for.
Another hindrance to developmental work and welfare schemes are the Model Code of Conduct. It is a set of guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India for the conduct of political parties and leaders during a campaign. This also prohibits announcing or launching any new welfare schemes, as that might manipulate the minds of the voters. With simultaneous elections, implementation of welfare policies and economic benefits would be easier since the code of conduct would not be re-imposed repeatedly.
A major setback of simultaneous elections is that regional parties can be sidelined. Voters tend to vote for the same party during state and assembly elections. With simultaneous elections, it would be harder for local and regional parties to rise up against well-funded national parties.
India held simultaneous elections from 1951 to 1967. The system was disrupted by a premature dissolution of Lok Sabha in 1970. Another criticism of simultaneous elections is that re-elections would again disrupt the system. With by-poll elections, no-confidence motions and dissolutions of assemblies/parliament, simultaneous elections cannot be a reality as such. However, it can be partially imposed.
The Law Commission has suggested a certain amendment for effective regulation. Firstly, elections should be held in two sets. A set of states should go for elections every 2.5 years. Secondly, a constructive vote of no confidence.
Simultaneous elections would help curb corruption and build a more conclusive socio economic ecosystem. It will improve legislative working by reducing the amount of logjams, to gather spot light, in assemblies or parliament. The system does have a certain flaws, but it’s effective implementation would ensure better governance.