All elections together. Why not?

The Congress has the problem that it is still furiously in denial about its defeat. On the idea of simultaneous elections, it again stirred up Uttarakhand.

Written by Meghnad Desai | Published: May 1, 2016 12:05 am
state centre elections, india elections, lok sabha elections, state elections, uttarakhand president rule, article 356, india news, PM Narendra Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reiterated his suggestion that Centre and state elections should be held together. This is an idea whose time has come and we need a widespread and serious discussion in legislatures and in civil society about it.

The Congress has the problem that it is still furiously in denial about its defeat. On the idea of simultaneous elections, it again stirred up Uttarakhand. If anything, Uttarakhand has shown how much more mature Indian democracy has become. Thus a routine exercise of Article 356, like Indira Gandhi used to make, is no longer acceptable as states are jealous of their own democratically elected parliaments. Anyway, Modi would need four terms as PM to break Indira Gandhi’s record on Article 356.

The beauty of the proposal of simultaneous elections is that it may also solve the anomalies created by Article 356. As I have argued just recently, the idea that the Centre can overrule state governments is anti-federalist. If the Central government cannot similarly have President’s Rule imposed, then why should any state suffer the burden?

Simultaneous elections assure that the Centre and the states are on a par. Of course, it will revolutionise politics since India will not be in perpetual election mode. That will allow governments at all levels to concentrate on policy-making.

It is however not easy to accomplish. Indian democracy is built on the Westminster model where governments can be removed on a no-confidence motion. That is a guarantee that the government enjoys the confidence of Parliament, which represents the people. If the government does not have the confidence of Parliament, it has to resign and new elections have to be called.

Simultaneous elections can work only if each and every government lasts five years regardless of confidence. This seems to contradict the very principle of democracy. However, in Westminster itself, there has been legislation during the last coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats which offers a way out. The Liberal Democratic Party as a minority party has been always radical on political matters, especially voting systems and the quality of democracy.

Thus in 2011, soon after the coalition government was formed, Parliament passed Fixed-Term Parliament Act 2011. The Act stipulates that elections will be held every five years on the first Thursday in May. A government in office can only be removed and fresh elections called if either by a two-thirds majority of all members, including absent members, Parliament decides to advance the date of election or if by the same sort of two-thirds majority, Parliament passes a no-confidence motion. If this motion is not reversed within a fortnight by the sitting government, also with a two- thirds majority, then new elections have to be called.

Thus every government can last full five years unless it has a two-thirds majority against it. This is a tough but fair rule. In Indian conditions, one could modify it by putting the bar at 60 per cent. But the idea is that elected governments should not be lightly dismissed.

The UK has not extended this principle to the regions as Parliament at Westminster does not have the power. For India, any such Act would require re-examination of Article 356. That cannot be a bad thing.


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Meghnad Desai
  1. Sadanand Patwardhan
    May 1, 2016 at 8:54 am
    Desai just takes Modi's Idea and tosses it around within the constraints imposed on his thinking by the Westminster Model. To begin with in the history of Indian republic, the elections to center and states were held together. Later reorganization of states, merging- demerging, apart from the "politics" of dismissing disliked state-governments broke the synchrony. Spectre of simultaneous elections is raised as it is "expected" to deliver more states to the same political formation as the one that wins Delhi. Opposition free governance is again "expected" to deliver better policies and better outcomes. Did it work in early years of Indian republic? Single party governments with absolute majority are regarded better for governance. Compare those of Rajiv hi, Narasimha Rao, Vajpayee or UPA-I to validate the hypotheses. It is easy to float ideas based on overarching umptions, but often difficult to validate with data. Then there are alternate approaches like Proportional Representation. Therefore, the only take away is to discuss as widely as possible alternative models to Representation and governance.
    1. C
      May 1, 2016 at 3:51 pm
      Indiaa should try Presidential form of govt. Brit system is not working. Presidentail form with direct election to top post (PM or CM or President or GovernoR) whatever the le is going to be will eleiminate no-confidence motio etc. State sponsor electoral candidates so thae orinidar people can contest elections. Pre-qulaify candidates to contest elections (like an entrance test). two-term limit for any post/representative. No rs, mlcs. lt;br/gt;Fixed formula for pay increases. TS govt increased ries of legislature by 200%. Rs 95 thou to 2.35 lac perks da ta servants;br/gt;india needs a democra zy overhaul. it is high time. otherwise, country will disappear in next 100 yrs.
      1. K
        K SHESHU
        May 1, 2016 at 6:21 am
        If simultaneous elections are held and that too in five years, the politicians may become unemplo as their itch of raking controversies by inflammatory speeches might need five years time to show results. So many years of hibernation would make them morose.
        1. A
          ashok s
          May 1, 2016 at 4:28 am
          Your proposal seems good ,;br/gt;But please come back to India and become EC , I hope and pray thy shall remain long big curly hairs of yours . in India you might become bald .
          1. R
            Rishi Raj
            May 1, 2016 at 10:21 am
            I wonder what would have happened had simultaneous elections been held for all state emblies and the Look Sabha in 2014 or 1984.
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