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Political consensus a must for simultaneous polls: EC

Election commissioner OP Rawat claimed on Wednesday the election watchdog would be ready to hold assembly and Lok Sabha elections simultaneously after September next year.

india Updated: Oct 06, 2017 12:26 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
National parties,Regional parties,Election Commission
Election Commission of India office in Delhi.(File Photo)

The Election Commision will have to get a consent from all recognised national and regional parties to pull off simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, sources in the poll body have said.

“The Election Commission in its earlier responses to the government has underlined the need for political consensus. All parties have to be on board, following which a constitutional amendment will have to be made,” said an EC official.

“Articles 83(2) and 172(1) do not allow the Lok Sabha and state assembly terms to extended beyond five years and Article 356 allows the union government to dismiss a state government in case of law and order failure,” the official added.

The government will have to address the issue of what happens if a state government does not complete a term.

Election commissioner OP Rawat claimed on Wednesday the election watchdog would be ready to hold assembly and Lok Sabha elections simultaneously after September next year, a move that could cut poll costs by hundreds of crores of rupees.

To pull it off the Election Commission will also need 40 lakh electronic voting machines and paper trail machines in place before the next round of general and assembly polls and a constitutional amendment to allow synchronised polls.

Rawat also told reporters in Bhopal that the government has already sanctioned the money for procurement of EVMs and Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines and they will be delivered by September 2018 after which the poll body will be able to hold simultaneous elections.

Earlier, the commission dubbed the idea of simultaneous polls as not “insurmountable” but pointed out that it would need over Rs 9284.15 crore for procuring the additional EVMs and VVPAT systems if the Lok Sabha and state assembly elections are held together.

It has also pointed out that the lifespan of an EVM is only 15 years, which means they will be used only thrice if simultaneous polls are held, and will cost the government Rs. 4520 crore for their procurement after that.

“Logistical challenges can be addressed but what the EC needs to move forward is political parties being on the same page and it is the Centre’s responsibility to build consensus,” the EC official said.

The stand of political parties on the issue is divided. Most political parties have submitted to the parliamentary committees that the proposal needs a wider consultation before being rolled out.

Parties like the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Communist Party of India(Marxist) and the Shiromani Akali Dal have raised questioned on the recourse if a particular state government is dismissed, pointing out that President’s rule cannot be imposed for prolonged periods.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre has been aggressively pushing for the system of simultaneous parliamentary and assembly polls that was prevalent in India till 1967.

While parliamentary polls are scheduled for 2019, assembly elections will be due in eight states September 2018. Polls in Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan are slated for the end of 2018 and early 2019. Polls for the remaining four states are slated to be held with the general elections.

First Published: Oct 06, 2017 12:26 IST