The Union government on Friday said that a committee has been formed under the headship of former President of India Ram Nath Kovind, to look into the feasibility of simultaneous polls to State Assemblies and the Lok Sabha. Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi declared that the committee has been constituted, and that one needed to await its report for any further news on the issue.
While Mr. Joshi declared that the committee had been constituted, no official notification had been forthcoming from the government till late evening. No information was available on other members of the committee or the terms of reference that they would be operating under. Right after news broke of the formation of such a committee, BJP president J.P. Nadda called on Mr. Kovind at his residence in New Delhi.
“Right now, a committee has been constituted. A report of the committee will come out which will discuss its prospects. It will be discussed in public domain and when it will come in Parliament, there will be discussion there too,” Mr. Joshi said.
Several Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled States – Yogi Adityanath of Uttar Pradesh, Himanta Biswa Sarma of Assam, and Pramod Sawant of Goa — gave statements in support of the move.
“Today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken a landmark decision by appointing a commission to look after the issue of Óne Nation, One Election. I am very happy that a person of stature like [former president of India] Ram Nath Kovind has accepted the offer. Multiple elections involve lots of money and because every time India is in election mode, development suffers,” Mr. Sarma said.
The Prime Minister has been advocating simultaneous polls for Assemblies and the Lok Sabha for many years now, with the first such mention being in an address to the BJP’s national executive in Delhi in March 2016. He has also been raising this issue at various public fora for many years.
Interestingly, Mr. Kovind too had spoken on the issue as part of his address to the joint Houses of Parliament in 2018. “Frequent elections not only impose a huge burden on human resources but also impede the development process due to the promulgation of the model code of conduct,” Mr. Kovind had said in his speech.
Constitutional amendments needed
Quite apart from canvassing support from various political parties and stakeholders, holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies would require at least five constitutional amendments and a large number of additional electronic voting machines (EVMs) and paper-trail machines. The five amendments in the Constitution would entail changes to Article 83 relating to the duration of Houses of Parliament, Article 85 relating to the dissolution of the Lok Sabha by the President, Article 172 relating to the duration of the State legislatures, Article 174 relating to dissolution of the State legislatures, and Article 356 relating to the imposition of President’s Rule in States.
A parliamentary panel had examined the issue of simultaneous elections in consultation with various stakeholders, including the Election Commission of India.
The matter now stands referred to the Law Commission for further examination to work out a “practicable road map and framework” for simultaneous elections, officials said.