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Simultaneous polls ahead PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 07 October 2017 00:00
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Santosh's edit

How do you deal with a govt losing its majority mid-way?

With the Election Commission announcing that, by September next year, it will be in a position to hold simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and all state assemblies, the stage is now set for political parties to come to a resolution on this. Simultaneous elections are an obvious choice given how this will lower costs and, more important, what it will do for governance in the country. Right now, the governments in power at the Centre tend to put off important policy decisions—on hiking diesel/kerosene prices regularly to remove subsidies, for instance—if there is an impending election, especially in a large state. Many political parties argue that simultaneous elections give an edge to the party ruling at the Centre since local issues will get subsumed by the issues raised in national elections. The argument, however, could just as easily go the other way—if the national government is unpopular, this could rub off on its chances in various states as well. Also, this will not be the first time simultaneous elections will be held. In 2014, elections to Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim took place at the same time as the national elections and while Chandrababu Naidu is an ally of the BJP, Navin Patnaik in Odisha, Nabam Tuki in Arunachal (the CM then) and Pawan Kumar Chamling in Sikkim were not. In any case, till 1967, the elections were held simultaneously, and no one thought it was meant to perpetuate the Congress party’s hold.

There are, however, some issues that need to be looked at carefully before all political parties take a call on this. For one, given how long elections in India take due to security, it is not clear whether this will imply an additional burden—but given paramilitary forces are deployed in each state for the national elections anyway, presumably more will not be needed for the assembly elections. The larger issue is of how the issue of a government losing a majority is to be handled—simultaneous elections were discontinued after various state assemblies were dissolved in 1968. One way to deal with a government losing its majority is to legislate that a no-confidence motion has to be accompanied by a confidence one—that is, while one chief minister/prime minister is voted out, this is to be allowed only with another being simultaneously being voted in. The other option is that, if a government is voted out, the next government will only be voted in for the remainder of the 5-year period so that, sooner rather than later, India can go back to the simultaneous elections.

 

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