The Union government has sought the views of people on holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies, following a debate sparked by the > statements of the Prime Minister and the President .
On the MyGov web portal >a discussion was started on Wednesday evening outlining five issues that could be considered while formulating a view on the subject. People can submit their views till October 15.
MyGov is a citizen engagement platform launched by the Narendra Modi government in August 2015 to promote the active participation of people on issues related to country's governance and development and "crowd source governance ideas from citizens”. The website is hosted and managed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC).
The `MyGov Discussion’ invites suggestions on five indicative questions. These are: 1) Is it desirable to hold simultaneous elections? What are the pros and cons? 2) If simultaneous elections are held, then for the first time what happens to Assemblies whose scheduled tenure either ends before or after the proposed date of holding elections? 3) Should the term of the Lok Sabha and Assemblies be fixed? 4) What would happen in case by-elections are necessitated in between terms? 5) What happens in case the ruling party or coalition loses majority in between term, either in the Lok Sabha or in Assemblies?
The note says that the desirability of holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and Assemblies has been discussed at various levels. The considered view is that simultaneous elections will not only keep alive the enthusiasm of voters, but will lighten the financial and administrative strain on the government/Election Commission machinery.
Simultaneous elections will also avoid repeated enforcement of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), a set of legally binding dos and don’ts for the Union/State governments, political parties and candidates, which is operational from the date of public announcement of general election or an Assembly election. It has been a subject of debate for several years, particularly the merit of its enforcement from the date of announcement rather than the date of notification of the poll schedule, and its adverse impact on effective governance.
A unique feature of the amended MCC, on the basis of a 2013 Supreme Court judgment, is that the manifestos of political parties should reflect the rationale behind the promises.
The MyGov discussion refers to the comments of President Pranab Mukherjee on September 5 that with some election or the other throughout the year, normal activities of the government come to a standstill because of the code of conduct.
“This is an idea the political leadership should think of. If political parties collectively think, we can change it.... The Election Commission can also put in their idea and efforts on holding the polls together and that will be highly beneficial”, the note quoted Mr. Mukherjee as saying.
In recent months Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also spoken several times on the subject. In March, he talked about it at a closed-door meeting of the BJP’s national officebearers. He reiterated the idea and called for a national debate in two recent TV discussions.
The founding fathers of India had envisaged simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabhas. The practice continued till 1967, when it got derailed due to dissolution of some Assemblies after the imposition of Central rule under Article 356 of the Constitution.
The next Lok Sabha election is scheduled for 2019. Elections to the Assemblies of five States are scheduled for 2017, for 13 States in 2018, 9 States in 2019, 1 State in 2020 and the remaining the next year.
The Law Commission, in its 107th Report in 1999 (Reform of Electoral Laws), said, “The rule ought to be one election once in five years for the Lok Sabha and all Legislative Assemblies”.
On December 17 last, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice in its 79th Report said several structural changes will need to be done in case a decision is made to conduct simultaneous election, including the possibility of Constitutional Amendments to Articles 83, 172, 85 and 174 to streamline the process.