CEC revives debate on parallel elections

Mint, December 30, 2015

Elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies should be held simultaneously, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said, reviving a debate on the proposal less than a fortnight after a parliamentary standing committee recommended it.

Experts feel that the biggest challenge to simultaneous polls lies in getting the party political consensus needed to bring an amendment in the law.

However, if implemented, they say, it could make for a better system than the current one. Among other things, it would mean that the tenure of the various state assemblies in the country would be brought in the same cycle as the Lok Sabha.

According to a report in the Hindustan Times from Amritsar, Zaidi told reporters on Monday that the commission strongly favours holding general elections and state polls together as this would save money, time and energy.

?However, there must be a consensus among all leading political parties on it and only then the commission can move forward,? he was quoted as saying. Zaidi was visiting Punjab to review the status of electoral rolls in the poll-bound state.

?This would basically mean that all the elections?national and state?happen in the country together. It cannot happen until the law is amended. This could be done by bringing all the terms of the states around a single date and then holding polls,? an official from the Election Commission said, requesting anonymity.

Another similar issue on the anvil is the cycle of lead and lag between the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, often highlighted by some political leaders. The election of Rajya Sabha members from individual states has its own cycle and is not timed with Lok Sabha polls or with the formation of a new government. For instance, members of Rajya Sabha from a particular state do not reflect the strength of a newly elected government at the centre, but that of the government last elected in that state. While there is no official proposal with the EC in this regard, there is a debate on it.

Political parties gave a mixed response to a report on simultaneous elections by the standing committee on law and personnel tabled in Parliament in the justconcluded winter session, while the EC listed ?several difficulties? in accepting such a proposal.

The committee said it did not feel simultaneous five-yearly elections could be held ?in the near future?. But it appeared to advocate an incremental approach, saying, ?slowly it would reach in stages for which the tenure of some of the state legislative assemblies need to be curtailed or extended.?

According to the report, while parties like the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) supported the idea with some suggestions, others including the Congress, Trinamool Congress, Communist Party of India (CPI), All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) rejected it.

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