Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu on Friday said “the time has come to take a serious look at the possibility of conducting simultaneous elections”. Naidu was speaking at the launch of the Hindi translation of former Chief Election Commisioner S Y Quraishi’s book, An Undocumented Wonder: The Great Indian Election. He said that along with elections to the Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies, the elections to local bodies such as panchayats and municipal bodies must also be held together.
Naidu said the “continuous festival of elections” shifts the focus away from development and “slows down progress”.
He mentioned that former President Pranab Mukherjee too had said that, “throughout the year some election or the other is happening and regular work comes to standstill with the code of conduct being implemented”.
It is for the Election Commission to take this exercise forward, “in consultation with political parties”, he said, adding that it was not an easy task, but “at the same time it is the need of the hour”. Naidu said this in the presence of the current Chief Election Commissioner Achal Kumar Joti.
He said that although polls to local bodies like panchayats and municipal bodies are supposed to be held every five years, it doesn’t always happen. “We should ensure that election to local bodies are held every five years. Ours is a three-tier democracy, and we must strengthen democracy of the Union, state and local bodies,” he said. The Vice-President said all petitions relating to election disputes must also be disposed of in a time-bound manner. He proposed setting up of election tribunals.
Naidu also spoke of the need to curb money power in elections to set a “truly level-playing field”. Citing paid news as an example of how money can distort an election scenario, he said it had become a “big menace” and should be reason for disqualification of a candidate. Lastly, the Vice-President suggested that the anti-defection law must be revisited to check “to what extent it has served its purpose. If needed, it has to be amended further and made more stringent.” To legislators, he said: “The moment you want to leave the party, leave the post also, very simple.”