Indira Gandhi as prime minister had justified her decision to delink the Lok Sabha and the assembly elections in 1971 on the grounds that voters should be mobilised on an all-India agenda for the Lok Sabha elections and state-level issues for others. But now assembly elections are held throughout the year. An illustration from 2014 will substantiate the above argument if one keeps in mind that the year witnessed not only the Lok Sabha elections but also elections in several states, ending with Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir.
The rationale behind issue-based elections has proved a myth because Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Sonia Gandhi or Narendra Modi have campaigned actively in every assembly election by giving it a national significance. Narendra Modi was chief election campaigner of the BJP for the Lok Sabha and the assembly elections whenever they were held in 2014 and in all his election rallies he talked on the same issues.
Second, in the post-delinking phase, the role of money power has increased. Huge amounts are required for each and every assembly election. It has been estimated that the BJP spent `1,500 crore only on the Lok Sabha elections of 2014 and almost the same amount was spent by all other parties during the Maharashtra, Haryana, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh elections for the same year. Modi himself observed on October 4: “How can a government in New Delhi work with someone who shuts the doors on us ...” and “someone who doesn’t have the courage to share a platform with me”. He went on in the same vein in Haryana: “If you want me to serve you and bring in change, I do not want any railway crossings (fatak) or speed breakers on the road from Delhi to Haryana.”
Third, the Election Commission, the state administrative machinery, and the central and state armed and paramilitary forces remain engaged throughout the year.
It has often been observed that governments in states change when there is the same government at the Centre, and vice versa. This causes renegotiations in funds transfer, thus upsetting the structure of financial federalism. The model code of conduct paralyses governments during elections as it happened in the case of Jammu & Kashmir. The state government there is unable to take care of the families displaced by the recent floods. Hence there is a need for restoring the pre-1971 electoral system, which allowed for simultaneous polls.
CP Bhambhri taught politics at JNU
The views expressed by the author are personal