Coterminous LS, State polls not feasible: Quraishi

Updated - November 17, 2021 01:55 am IST

Published - April 02, 2016 12:37 am IST - NEW DELHI:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s >advocacy of making Lok Sabha and State Assembly polls coterminous at a meeting of the BJP office bearers last month has set off a debate on whether, in fact, this move is at all feasible or practically implementable.

The former Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi told The Hindu , that Mr. Modi’s concerns were valid with regard to the monetary expenditure on polls every year, or even the administrative lethargy that sets in at the imposition of a Model Code of Conduct before every election. “Having said that, Constitutionally it will be impossible to implement,” he said.

“For example when the former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s 13-day government fell in 1996, should all the State Assemblies have been dissolved at that time? Would it have been valid to disturb the mandate of those governments,” he said.

Instead, Mr. Quraishi says solutions should be found to the specific worries with regard to electoral calendar of the country and its effect on administration and the financial health of political parties. “All of these issues can be tackled through electoral reforms, without getting into Constitutional matters,” he said. “As far as expenditure undertaken by political parties for various elections is concerned, the parties, in tandem with the Election Commission (EC) can consider capping the costs of elections, or even state funding of political parties,” he said.

‘Our main worry’ “For the model code of conduct to not be stretched out, we can have a single phase parliamentary election or even State polls, provided at least 10 battalions of paramilitary are raised. Our main worry, for the conduct of free and fair polls is, after all, the security of the process,” he said. The EC gives an informally held notice or leeway to political parties in states, of around 21 days before the actual poll dates before announcing it. “This can be reduced to seven days, the EC announces dates, and the period that the model code of conduct is in place becomes shorter,” he said.

The 79th report of the standing committee on law and justice that went into the issue reflects a plurality of opinion on the matter and does not suggest the measures proposed by Mr Quraishi.

Instead, in its recommendations, the committee suggests a two-phase poll, with States divided into two groups, one for which elections would be in the middle of the current Lok Sabha (16 States) and another where elections will be held at the end of the current Lok Sabha (19 States). Only Bihar is to have polls in 2021, along with the repeat polls in the first group. By this process, at least half the States in India will have polls alongside Lok Sabha polls, and the rest in the middle of that term.

Treated warily This proposal treated warily by the Congress while it was opposed by the Trinamool Congress. Parties that supported the move “in principle” included the AIADMK, the DMK and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). The BJP’s opinion was not reflected in the report.

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