Law panel supports proposal for simultaneous polls, but with riders
Holding simultaneous polls not possible within existing framework of the Constitution: Commission
New Delhi: The Law Commission on Thursday ruled out the possibility of immediate simultaneous elections in a draft report, but supported the idea on grounds of savings, administrative ease and smooth policy implementation.
It, however, added that holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and assemblies was “not possible within the existing framework of the Constitution” and suggested amendments, listing three options that it said could be rolled out in the future.
“In order to achieve holding simultaneous elections, terms of certain state legislative assemblies will require curtailment or extension, necessitating amendment to the Article 172 of the Constitution. The amendments to the Constitution and other statutes are kept to the barest minimum,” said the draft report on the proposal that is backed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) but opposed by the Congress.
Its first suggestion was to hold elections to 12 assemblies and Delhi along with the Lok Sabha polls in 2019, leaving until 2021 the polls to the remaining 16 assemblies and Puducherry.
“The term of the state legislative assemblies so constituted as a result of the elections in 2021 shall be only for thirty months or till June 2024, whichever is earlier.”
Subsequently, “elections to the House of the People (Lok Sabha) and all the state legislative assemblies and Union territories can be held together from 2024, completely synchronizing the elections,” the commission said.
In case of a hung assembly or Parliament, it recommended that all efforts should be made by the President or governor to install a government that would enjoy the support of the House or assembly, giving an opportunity to the largest party along with their pre-poll or post-poll alliances.
The second option is to synchronize elections in such a manner that they are held only twice in five years. This would mean holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and assemblies of 12 states and Delhi in mid-2024, followed by elections to the remaining states by the end of 2026.
The third option would be that “all elections falling due in one calendar year be conducted together during such part of the year, which is conducive to all the state legislatures.”
The commission also suggested that in order to ensure stability of governments, the concept of constructive vote of no-confidence may be adopted and there should be the option of limiting the number of no-confidence motions during the term of a House or assembly.
Responding to the report, the BJP said that a national debate had started on the issue, but the Congress reiterated its opposition to the idea.
“First, I was myself a part the Congress delegation which met the Law Commission and strongly put out objections to what we said was unconstitutional, non-feasible and undesirable. Our objections are on record and need not be repeated. After the Election Commission has ruled it out, I think it remains a futile debate and largely the hobby horse of one person,” said Abhishek Singhvi, senior Congress spokesperson and Rajya Sabha member.
“Third, the Law Commission report itself, while vaguely supporting the concept, has actually written more against it than for it and has indirectly validated our views. They themselves agree that it cannot start before 2024, that a huge political consensus is required to pass a constitutional amendment which does not exist right now,” Singhvi added.
“Prime Minister has maintained that there should be a larger debate and all stakeholders should give their suggestions on the issue. The party is pleased that at least a national debate has started on the issue. We will study the recommendations of the Law Commission,” said Anil Baluni, national spokesperson of the BJP.
The debate on simultaneous elections has returned to the spotlight with Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking in its favour on several occasions. The BJP in its manifesto for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections had said it would look for ways and evolve a method to hold simultaneous polls.