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Simultaneous Elections vs Accountability

Why are some political parties opposing simultaneous elections?

1. One Nation, One Election seeks to define the idea of holding simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha and state assemblies.

2. While there appears to be an acceptance at some levels, it is also opposed on the ground that it may adversely affect constitutional democracy and federalism.

3. Concerns are raised that it may lead to the consolidation of authoritarian tendencies.

Hence, it requires due deliberation and careful consideration.

When did the idea of simultaneous election originate?

1. The Election Commission in 1982 as well as the Law Commission in 1999 mooted the idea of simultaneous elections.

2. The recent impetus has come from a discussion paper by NITI Aayog members as well as a report by the Law Commission.

3. The Prime Minister in his speeches and monologues, thereby giving it political weightage, has pushed this idea.

What are the pros and cons of simultaneous elections?

Pros

1. The rationale for this idea rests on the arguments for efficiency and expenditure.

2. The simultaneous conduct of elections is said to help reduce the overall expenditure on holding elections in a staggered and sequential manner, as has been the general precedent since 1969.

3. It would also remove the impediment in taking policy decisions due to the adherence to the model code of conduct at different points in time.

Cons

1. Such arguments are essentially managerial/instrumental in nature and show scant regard for constitutional principles and democratic values.

2. It would demand the curtailment of the ongoing tenure of several state legislatures, which would effectively mean undermining the democratic mandate.

3. Even if this process is to be ensured without invoking Article 356 and were to be carried out consensually, it would stand to harm the federal principle.

4. It is so because specificities of state-level issues and the regional forces addressing them prominently find better scope and space with the singular focus being on the elections in particular states.

5. Simultaneity threatens to drown these specificities and further strengthen the unitary bias.

6. Various assembly elections that happen to be held separately from general elections to the Lok Sabha can exercise democratic pulls and pressures on the union government.

7. Elections held at different times can possibly force the union government to correct its anti-people policies, and pay heed to the demands of the masses.

How do simultaneous elections affect accountability?

1. It affects accountability of the executive to the people through the legislature because the sustenance of simultaneous elections demands a provision for fixed tenure.

2. With the absence of such a provision, the pattern of simultaneity may be broken if a successful no-confidence motion against a government, at the union or state level were to necessitate mid-term elections.

3. Such eventuality is sought to be addressed through proposals, such as a so-called constructive no-confidence motion (which can be moved only by proving the possibility of an alternative arrangement), President’s rule, or immediate election for a curtailed period (that is a remainder of the term).

4. These ideas do not find any place in the Constitution and also dilute the accountability to legislature.

5. It raises the question as to whether, in a democracy, stability can be given precedence over accountability.

6. Such dilution would also entail further entrenchment of the ongoing process of the Presidentialization of the polity by stealth.

7. This process also gets a boost as the simultaneous elections would unduly favour the big national parties better endowed with resources and reach.

8. It also makes the political contest increasingly bipartisan and centred on personalities of leaders.