Should India have simultaneous elections?
Free and fair elections are held for the continuity of good governance in
democracy like India. A debate which has periodically taken place in this
country is about holding simultaneous elections to the state legislative
assemblies and the LOK SABHA. Prime Minister said to have time and again
supported this idea. PM went a step ahead from what others in the past. While
many of the senior members of the Government suggested simultaneous elections to
both State legislature and LOK SABHA, Prime Minister wanted to include even the
Urban Local bodies and PANCHAYATS.
Meanwhile the reason behind the issue getting traction again is the report by
the Standing committee of parliament which had made this suggestion. However
political parties are divided on this move.
As it is an issue of national importance we need to discuss political, practical
and constitutional questions relating to the enforcing a uniform election in the
Our country’s first general elections were held in 1951-52. There was a
simultaneous General Election to Lok Sabha and all State Legislative Assemblies.
This trend had continued in three subsequent General Elections held in 1957,
1962 and 1967. But in 1968 and 1969, the cycle got disrupted due to the
premature dissolution of some Legislative Assemblies. Similarly in the year
1970, it was the turn of Lok Sabha that it itself got dissolved prematurely. As
a result of premature dissolution and extension of the terms of Lok Sabha and
state assemblies, the cycle of simultaneous elections got disturbed.
What are the arguments in favour of conducting simultaneous elections?
The suggestion for holding simultaneous elections was made time and again as
supporters argue that it would ensure consistency, continuity and efficiency in
Enforcing a Model code of Conduct during elections time would impact
implantation of development programmes.
Election expenditure is rising steadily in India. Elections have unfortunately
become the root cause of corruption and black money. Supporters who argue for
the simultaneous elections say that it would curb corruption and build more
conducive socio-economic system.
The process of conducting elections on such a large scale is tiresome. Entire
district administration gets busy and few ministries will become standstill.
There are various stakeholders involved in holding elections like security
personnel, government teachers etc. So, on the administration front, frequent
elections pose a huge burden on resources — both manpower and financial. The
opportunity cost of these lost resources is too high to ignore as India is a
resource-constrained developing economy.
Other argument is disruption of public life with political rallies and noise
pollution and the sharpening of caste, religious and communal divide by
dishonest politicians looking to garner votes would increase due to recurring
Till 1967 first four general elections held simultaneously across the country.
Now is it possible to bring back the same process?
Constitution says that the life of the Parliament shall be Five years unless it
is dissolved prematurely for other reasons. Same provision is applicable to
Assemblies as well. Holding simultaneous polls might be desirable from many
points of view but it may not be possible to getting it back in reality.
The simultaneous elections to Parliament and State legislatures till 1967 were
less by design and more due to dominant party system. When that neatness was
lost in the 1960s and later in the 1990s, it owed much to the dismantling of the
dominant party system.The election cycle became remained same for last few
decades due to coalition politics, active role played by state parties and
greater power sharing among parties.
If we enforce the system of simultaneous elections, we would need to curtail the
legislature’s power to unseat a government. An assembly is elected for a period
of five years. It can be dissolved only when the government in that state cannot
carry on, as per the provisions of the constitution. A no-confidence motion must
be passed by the House, and with no alternative government being confirmed. So,
the impact on the fundamental instrument of the no-confidence motion is an
important question that needs to be answered.
Other question is that in the event of state government’s premature break down,
will these states be under the president’s rule till the next elections?Even if
the President carries on the government for the remainder of the period, it
means that the States would be penalised for not producing a majority
There is another practical difficulty. Suppose simultaneous elections are held
but the government loses its majority in the Lok Sabha, what will happen to
those 29 States governments, even if they have an absolute majority?
What are the recommendations of standing committee?
The Committee noted that the holding of simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and
state assemblies would reduce: (i) the massive expenditure that is currently
incurred for the conduct of separate elections; (ii) the policy paralysis that
results from the imposition of the Model Code of Conduct during election time;
and (iii) impact on delivery of essential services and (iv) burden on crucial
manpower that is deployed during election time.
Holding of elections in two phases: The Committee recommended that elections
could be held in two phases. It stated that elections to some Legislative
Assemblies could be held during the midterm of Lok Sabha. Elections to the
remaining legislative assemblies could be held with the end of Lok Sabha’s term.
The elections of legislative assemblies whose term ends six months after the
general elections to Lok Sabha can be clubbed together. However, the results of
such elections can be declared at the end of the assembly’s tenure.
Holding simultaneous elections is certainly not feasible
Holding simultaneous elections goes against the spirit of the Constitution and
against the spirit of federalism.
National and local issues are different, and holding simultaneous elections is
likely to distort the judgment of the people. There is apprehension that
whenever there is a majoritarian government at the Centre, any anti-incumbency
in the States is likely to get neutralised if simultaneous elections are held.
Implementing simultaneous polls would require a substantial shift from the
status quo and would involve amendments to the Constitution and election-related
Decisions taken at the local level are driven by local level considerations.
Holding simultaneous elections even for local bodies along with Lok Sabha
elections is problematic for the simple reason that every election has its own
dynamics and its own issues.