Indian elections have often been termed as the ‘greatest’ democratic carnival in the world. The 2014 Lok Sabha (LS) had 814 million eligible voters, which is three times the number of voters in the 2012 presidential elections in the United States.
These massive exercises are not only costly but human-resource intensive. These issues have given rise to debates on whether it would be prudent to hold simultaneous general and assembly elections.
The BJP’s LK Advani raised this issue in 1995 and said that political parties should come together to “restore the synchronicity of Lok Sabha and all assembly elections” because their de-linking has “not been good either for the health of democracy or that of the administration”.
These two elections were last held simultaneously in 1967.
This week, chief election commissioner (CEC) HS Brahma threw his weight behind this idea. He told HT that the cost of assembly elections comes to around Rs 4,500 crore and this could be saved if they are held along with the Lok Sabha polls.
The CEC has a point. The cost of conducting polls has been increasing with every election.
Take the case of Karnataka: While the expenditure for the 2008 assembly elections was Rs 70 crore, it touched Rs 200 crore in 2012 — a rise of 185%.
The expenditure for the 1999 Lok Sabha elections was Rs 948 crore and in 2014, the expenditure was Rs 3,500 crore (provisional figure).
Maharashtra had two elections last year: The general elections in May and assembly polls in November. Together, the two elections cost the exchequer Rs 1,100 crore. It could have been far less if simultaneous polls were held.
The CEC spoke of the other disadvantages in the present system: With 29 states and seven Union Territories, at any point of time some part of the country is gearing up for an election.
This forces political parties to be in election mode perpetually. Plus, once an election is declared, the model code of conduct restricts the free functioning of governments in a poll-bound state, disrupting ‘socio-economic’ life.
While Mr Brahma’s right from a manager’s point of view, it is not a workable idea.
What happens if a state government falls within a year of coming to power? Would the state continue to be under President’s rule for the next four years? Second, if two different parties with contradictory ideologies are at the Centre and the state, then in case of President’s rule, the Centre’s ideology could prevail in governance.
That would mean a large section of the voters would have to do with policies that they did not vote for. Such a situation would definitely be against our democratic tradition and representative form of governance, which we are — justifiably — so proud of.