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Thursday, December 7, 2023
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Simultaneous Polls would inject instability at Centre

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One Nation, One Election ambition of Narendra Modi is most welcome but the Simultaneous Polls plan has more disadvantages than the advantages. This scheme is not only being discussed in the television studio but even the central government is seeking inputs from ordinary citizens through a website about its interest and related questions; however, not many could participate on this online survey. The government could have chosen other mediums to reach rural and urban voters. One consequence of implementing this plan is that a bigger ‘centralised’ agenda would overshadow the states and their regional issues. The current disseminated system allows each state to push their individual agenda during state elections – something that would be difficult to do in collective polls.

Separate state elections allow regional parties to attract voters in the gap between central polls – since one would be voting separately for the Union and the state. Combining state and national polls gives an undue advantage to the national parties who can appeal on a pan-India scale over state-level parties. That would really create confusion in voters. In the multitude of messages, the attention that these smaller parties can appeal will be ruthlessly limited.

While the theory of a combined election sounds classy and candid, the framework still does not adequately address what happens in situations necessitating fresh elections before the five-year term lapses – like a hung assembly or if the assembly is dissolved due to a no-confidence motion, etc. This is almost inevitable and will break the system all over again. Of course, this reform is still far off since there are many gaps which need to be addressed for orchestrating elections across such a vast country like India. Simultaneous Elections would have been better if we had a Single Secular Party at the Centre. Now, the Fight over ‘Secularism’ kills the ethos of the Constitution. Simultaneous Polls are not for Indian citizens. Indians don’t cast vote, they ‘caste’ their vote. Let’s First Educate Indians about why they Vote, and then it would be easy to accept Simultaneous Elections. Moreover, there are too many elections in India. Municipal Council, State, Lok Sabha, Panchayat, etc. One needs to really think so that the people and the candidates can get on with a normal life. Streamline the elections so that the public are not affected with having to stand in long queues for meaningless elections as no political party or leader is proven extraordinary in solving people’s problem, they all are there to leech taxpayers’ money and to propagate their own agendas. The Indian electoral system is a big hoax; the elected leaders need accountability and people need an iron hand on them while voting. Till then, whatever one thinks or does, is just a waste of time and money.

In such crises, Simultaneous Election for the Centre and the States are not at all feasible. The government at the centre or the states may fall for various reasons. So, can there be Simultaneous Election every time? Often the not so educated voters (and they form a big majority) will be confused as to why they are voting twice on the same day. When these elections are held on different days, the local politicians will put every effort to educate the voters on the significance of the two elections. Further, the Lok Sabha or Assembly elections at different times give the opportunity to voters to express their happiness or otherwise of the rule at the Centre or State. To clarify the point, if the voters elected a particular party at the Centre and later on elected a different party for the state rule, that shows their unhappiness with the central rule and vice versa. So, since a clear assessment of a particular rule will be always available, all should welcome when elections are held at different times.

Free and fair elections are integral to democracy. Continuity, consistency, and governance are also integral to democracy and democracy, to my mind, also implies good governance. To achieve this, elections are held. However, if the means (elections) become the goal, this will not serve democracy well. Holding Simultaneous Elections will ensure consistency, continuity, and governance, and the elections then will only be the means to achieve this and not an end in them. For it to be feasible, we need a political consensus, which is not easy to achieve.

There has to be a political willingness to discuss this issue before we talk of a consensus. It is good that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is talking about consent instead of forcibly pushing this plan through. His reasons for encouraging Simultaneous Elections are unreasonable expenditure and the repeated dislocation of administrative machinery on election duty throughout the year.

We all know elections have unfortunately become the root cause of corruption. When we are in constant election mode, we are also in undying corruption mode. When crores are spent in elections, crores have to be collected by hook or by crook. The way out is to cut the role played by money in elections, and this can come about only through a maximum of political party spending. The other aspect is the state funding of elections. Besides, elections have become too divisive. Communal riots and caste disturbances are purposely created around election time to ensure the division of communities for electoral gains.

With the emergence of regional political parties, Simultaneous Polls would inject instability at the centre. The present single-party rule of BJP may not last long, with growing caste based forces such as Patels, Jats, Karni Senas, TDP in Andhra Pradesh or Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, political instability in the regions may impact the Centre. Implementing Simultaneous Polls would require a substantial shift from the status quo and would involve amendments to the Constitution and election-related laws. Such grand proposals are not necessarily welcome proposals. Democratic politics has a tendency to be chaotic, but there are limits to the corrective abilities of formal legal provisions. On paper, it looks like a nice idea to streamline the staggered electoral cycle where there is an average of more than five State elections every year. A specious argument is made that such an electoral cycle overburdens parties and the electoral machinery.

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Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with three Honourary Doctorate in Journalism. Vaidehi has been an active journalist for the past 21 years, and is also the founding editor of an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, and The Democracy digital video news portal is her brain child. Vaidehi has three books in her name, "Sikhism vs Sickism", "Life Beyond Complications" and "Vedanti". She is an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, OSCP offensive securities, Certified Security Analyst and Licensed Penetration Tester that caters to her freelance jobs.
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