Kochi | It has been quite some time since Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling party BJP have been fervently advocating the case of holding elections simultaneously to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies. Finally, Modi has pushed further this idea of one-nation, one election with the formation of a committee headed by former President Ram Nath Kovind to get into its intricacies and structure the legislation.
Two main arguments that the simultaneous election idea hinges on are on the potential for a focus on undisturbed governance for the full term, and secondly, the prospect of substantial cost savings.
The first argument holds limited significance since the era of frequent State Government collapses and subsequent elections is a thing of the past. This invalidates the notion of undisturbed governance making it almost irrelevant. Besides, it is evident now that even after Assembly elections, coalitions coming to power may not necessarily involve the initial frontrunners post-election results. Also, significant decisions, whether in the realms of economy or politics, have been made at times when elections were not held simultaneously.
The second argument of cost-savings is also not a substantial concern either. The Constitution’s intent for India to uphold democracy means that the cost of maintaining it is not a significant issue at all. Moreover, the funding of elections and campaigns is a matter of concern for corporates, who for their interests pump in money. The existence of electoral bonds underscores this aspect.
Besides, the substantial requirement of EVMs, along with the deployment of security forces and related logistics, will inevitably add to the government expenses. Currently, EVMs are transported across the country and security forces mobilized as per specific requirements.
A bit of history will make clear of how the country steered itself off this simultaneous election and, in doing so, reinforced its federal structure and celebrated its diversity which have been pivotal in setting apart from others.
Since 1952, elections have been held concurrently as the country had just been born into a democratic system. The dominance of the Congress party at the national level was mirrored in the Assembly elections too. But slowly, Congress started losing its ground and new parties and alliances started coming to power in various States. Presently, any attempt to reintroduce simultaneous elections is likely to favour only one party, as demonstrated in the past, which would run counter to democratic principles that emphasize dispersion of power.
Since this country opted to follow a federal system over a presidential form of governance, simultaneous elections can potentially undermine the foundational vision of the Constitution framers. They envisioned each State and each panchayat as individual democratic units, a fundamental tenet of federalism.
Besides, Assembly elections bring local and regional concerns to the fore, which is not the case in the Lok Sabha one. This underscores the importance of preserving the diversity within the country’s democratic framework.
There are other serious issues such as a scenario where a State Government loses a vote of confidence. If no alternative proposal emerges, the State will fall under Governor’s rule (effectively leading to the Centre directly ruling the State) even when the electorate had voted against the ruling party at the Centre. This rule will continue till the term of office of that House ends. It is vital to acknowledge that the State is distinct from the Centre, and any attempt to enforce homogeneity defeats the fundamental principles of federal democracy.
Elections encompass a multitude of parties and address a wide array of issues, be they international, national, State-level and even purely localized. This goes to make democracy something really admirable. Elected representatives are accountable and answerable to their voters, and the fear of losing this every five years keeps them vigilant. Any attempt to thwart this through homogeneity can be nothing but disastrous.