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Mains Answer Writing

1-March-2024

Q1) Simultaneous elections can promote governance continuity and reduce election-related expenditure. However, the idea must be carefully examined to ensure equal opportunities for all parties, preserve federal principles, and maintain the essence of democratic representation. Discuss.

(250 Words/15 Marks)

ANSWER

Free and fair elections are the bedrock of representative democracy. Simultaneous elections to the State and union legislatures can further the idea of governance as a continuum and reinforce the principle of fiscal prudence.

The desirability of simultaneous elections becomes apparent as:

  1. Simultaneous elections will check the disruption of regular administrative and development work. It could make the legislatures a platform for statesmanship rather than showmanship.

E.g., diversion of teachers, police etc., for election duties and restrictions on starting new projects due to MCC.

  1. Simultaneous elections will ensure that the executive remains in the policy making mode rather than the populist mode.

E.g., frequent loan waivers for farmers; promises for distribution of freebies etc., will be checked.

  1. Simultaneous elections will reduce election expenditure incurred on advertisement, rallies etc., which in turn will limit the role of corruption, lobbying, and black money in elections.

E.g., As per Election Commission of India, more than Rs 6,500 crore was spent on elections by 18 political parties, between 2015 and 2020.

  1. Simultaneous elections can help curb divisive politics based on communalism and casteism and provide for development-centric elections, checking the mobilization along caste and religious lines.
  2. Simultaneous elections may also allow for a more de-politicised centre-state relation.

Though progressive, the idea of simultaneous elections must be done in a way which does not temper with constitutional propriety:

  1. Election Commission of India should play a central role in taking the idea of simultaneous elections forward through a process of consultation and consensus building between all the stakeholders.
  2. Federalism as a basic structure should not be undermined. The process of simultaneous elections must not overshadow local/regional issues under the canopy of national agendas.
  3. Periodic elections are a way to ensure the accountability of the executive/legislature to the electorate. According to critics, simultaneous elections may dilute such accountability and may alienate the electorate.
  4. Simultaneous elections should not end up creating a systemic bias towards single-party dominance. There could be undue advantage for national parties due to dominance and greater control over administrative machinery.
  5. The constitutionality and sovereignty of state legislatures should be respected, and their terms (elected) should not be ended abruptly. This process may call for constitutional amendment to Article 172 of the constitution.
  6. Lack of resources and manpower/expertise to conduct elections at such a large scale may become an impediment in the path of simultaneous elections.

E.g., need for EVMs, security/election staff at large scale.

Law Commission of India and ECI have supported the idea of simultaneous elections, but have also flagged challenges in implementing it. Building political consensus on electoral reforms should be the way forward.

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