Election Commission should disallow simultaneous polls

Harihar Swarup

Election Commission has rightly scotched idle speculation in recent days on the possibility of clubbing Lok Sabha elections with 11 assembly polls. Drastic solutions like imposing President’s Rule in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram were mooted so that polls here could be delayed and synchronized with general elections. But the Election Commission has checked this harebrained idea before it gains more tractions, by stating that President’s rule cannot be applied for wanton reasons.  Recognizing the unconstitutionality of not conducting elections in time, EC is going ahead with preparations and is expected to deliver results for these four states by December 15 this year.
The Election Commission has decided to go by law as well as convention to hold assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Mizoram together before December, ahead of the expiry of the term of Mizoram assembly. The EC’s decision virtually rules out any possibility of clubbing these polls and the Lok Sabha election due in April-May next year as was being suggested by some political quarters. The BJP’s call for simultaneous polls, outlined in the party chief Amit Shah’s letter to the Law Commission, will be more an effort to keep the debate alive and provide the political viability of the proposal.
While the Commission is firm on following its mandate under the Constitution as well as convention of clubbing closely timed state polls, the EC sources did not rule out rule out holding the Maharashtra and Haryana polls, due in November, 209 with the Lok Sabha election and five other state assemblies in April-May, 2019. If the ruling dispensation in Maharashtra and Haryana choose to dissolve the assemblies by January, “we will be able to time the poll in these states simultaneously with the general election in 2019”, said a senior EC functionary.
Sources said the EC will go ahead with announcement of the four state polls, due later this year, as per schedule. In all probability the announcement may be timed in late October or early November.
The controversy over holding  Lok Sabha and assembly elections simultaneously as was the practice in fifties was revived following the BJP President Amit Shah’s letter to the Law Commission that the party wants 11 state polls with 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The BJP denied that Shah has made any such statement. “BJP rejects any such misplaced conception that the party wants 11 states polls with 2019 Lok Sabha elections”, party spokesman Sambit Patra said.
The statement came against the background of reports saying that while BJP recognized that holding polls to all state assemblies along with next year’s Lok Sabha elections was not possible, it may ultimately be possible to hold 11 assembly poll with Lok Sabha elections in the long run. Sources cited in the report, however, made it clear that they were speaking about  what was possible , insisting that no decision has been taken to shuffle the dates of election for assemblies and Lok Sabha poll.
Simultaneous elections are not possible without a legal framework as an extension or curtailment of the term of assemblies will require a constitutional amendment, Chief Election Commissioner; O P Rawat said a day after the BJP made a fresh push to hold Lok Sabha and Assembly polls together.
Pointing at the need for a legal framework, he virtually ruled out holding simultaneous polls anytime soon. “If the term of some state assemblies needs to be curtailed or extended, then a constitutional amendment will be required….. Logistics arrangements about 100 per cent availability of VVPAT’s (paper trail machine) will be a constraint”, Rawat said.
On the issue of one nation one poll, the Election Commission had given inputs and suggestions on 2015 itself…..other requirements of additional police force, polling personnel would also be needed, he said.
India started its journey with simultaneous elections in 1951. But as the states were formed or reorganized or some assemblies were dissolved before their scheduled terms, that practice started being challenged. Still simultaneous elections were held in 76% of states in 1957, and 67% of states in 1957. By 1972, however, the simultaneous election cycle stood disrupted; voting for not a single state was held with that of national elections. (IPA)

Wednesday, 29 August, 2018