The idea of holding elections simultaneously to Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies got a push from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
What is understood by “simultaneous elections”?
Simultaneous Elections in India refers to holding elections to Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies simultaneously, once in a five year.
At present, elections to Lok Sabha and to all State Legislative Assemblies are not being held simultaneously.
Sometimes, elections to some State Legislative Assemblies may happen together with the elections to Lok Sabha.
For example, in 2014, elections to State assemblies of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim were held along with elections to Lok Sabha.
Is the idea of simultaneous elections new?
The idea of simultaneous elections is not new to India.
In 1951-52, the first general election to the Lok Sabha was held simultaneously with all State Assemblies. This practice of simultaneous elections continued till the general election of 1967.
This practice got disrupted due to premature dissolution of some State Legislative Assemblies in 1968. Lok Sabha itself dissolved prematurely in 1970.
As a result, the elections to the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies are being held separately.
The idea of simultaneous elections was floated long back by former deputy Prime Minister of India, LK Advani.
In Recent times, the idea got support from President and Prime Minister. President Pranab Mukherjee has endorsed the idea by mentioning it in his address to the joint session of the parliament ahead of the budget session.
Reports of Law commission and the Parliamentary standing committee have also favored simultaneous elections.
What are the advantages of having simultaneous elections?
The cost of an election has two components – one, expenditure incurred by the Election Commission and two, expenditure incurred by the political parties.
A large number of government employees and public buildings are diverted from their regular responsibilities for election duties.
Supporters of the simultaneous elections argue that it will reduce election expenditure in terms of finance and reduce diversion of human resources for election duties.
Model Code of Conduct (MCC) comes into operation during election season. MCC is seen as an obstacle to the government service delivery mechanism.
Simultaneous elections may reduce such disruption.
During elections, political convenience takes precedence over public interest.
To lure voters, political parties concede to popular demands without any consideration to public interest. Simultaneous elections reduce such opportunity for political parties.
Simultaneous election promotes national perspective over the regional perspective. This is important for the unity of the country.
Since it promotes national perspective, simultaneous elections strengthen national parties. This reduces mushrooming growth of political parties based on narrow vote bank politics.
Simultaneous elections bring States on par with the Center.
If the elections are to be held simultaneously once in five years, the elected state governments cannot be dismissed easily.
This reduces the anomalies created by the Article 356 (President’s Rule) of the Indian constitution and hence, it strengthens federalism.
The simultaneous election once in five years provides stability to the governments. It allows the government to take difficult and harsh decision in larger public interest.
What are the disadvantages of having simultaneous elections?
Simultaneous elections may reduce the expenditure incurred by the Election Commission however there is no guarantee that expenditure of the political parties will reduce.
Political parties may spend entire fund at once rather than in phases.
Center and States are equal and sovereign within their jurisdiction hence simultaneous elections may reduce the importance of state elections affecting the concept of federalism.
Article 83(2) and Article 172 of the Constitution requires that the Lok Sabha and State legislatures be in existence for five years from the date of its first meeting, “unless dissolved earlier” thus simultaneous elections ignore this phrase, as there would be no opportunity to dissolve Lok Sabha or State Assemblies.
A government can be in power as long as it enjoys the confidence of Parliament and simultaneous elections can work only if governments last for a fixed tenure of five years regardless of confidence of Parliament therefore it negates the concept of ‘no confidence motion’ – an important tool for legislative control over the executive.
Elections are an important part of representative democracy and simultaneous elections with fixed tenure of five years curtail people’s right to express their confidence or displeasure on the government.
Simultaneous elections will relegate local issues or issues of state importance to the background which completely ignores the diversity of the country.
Holding simultaneous election once in five years may also face logistical challenges. For the free and fair conduct of the elections, security forces need to be deployed in large numbers which could be challenging given the current strength of security personnel.
What is the way forward?
To avoid frequent elections it is necessary to have stable elected bodies.
It is pertinent to note that a no-confidence motion is not mentioned in the Constitution or any law, for that matter. It finds place in Rule 198 of the Rules and Conduct of Business of the Lok Sabha, which states that 50 or more members can move a no-confidence motion.
If it succeeds, the government has to resign and if no other party or parties can form the government, premature elections follow.
The Law Commission of India in its report of 1999 has dealt with the problem of premature and frequent elections.
It had recommended an amendment of this rule on the lines of the German Constitution, which provides that the leader of the party who wants to replace the chancellor has to move the no-confidence motion along with the confidence motion.
If the motions succeed, the president appoints him as the chancellor. If such an amendment to Rule 198 is made, the Lok Sabha would avoid premature dissolution without diluting the cardinal principle of democracy that is a government with the consent of the peoples’ representatives with periodical elections.
It will also be consistent with the notion of collective responsibility of the government to the House as mentioned in Article 75 (3) of the Constitution.
This will bring stability and transparency in the system.
CAATS –What & Why
G.S. Paper 2,3
Why in news?
The Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions (CAATS) Bill has been introduced in US congress.
What CAATS is?
Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) aims to counter the aggression by Iran, Russia and North Korea through punitive measures.
The Act primarily deals with sanctions on Russian interests such as its oil and gas industry, defence and security sector, and financial institutions.
The Act empowers the US President to impose at least five of the 12 listed sanctions enumerated in the Act on persons engaged in a “significant transaction” with Russian defence and intelligence sectors.
Two of the most stringent of these sanctions are the export licence restriction by which the US President is authorised to suspend export licences related to munitions, dual-use and nuclear related items.
It extends to the ban on American investment in equity/debt of the sanctioned person.
Why CAATS is a cause of concern for India?
India has planned defense procurement from Russia which could potentially come under US sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act.
India is reliable much on Russia to strengthen its defense preparedness by equipping the armed forces with state-of-the-art arms
India since independence followed a policy of diversification for arms import which has led it to source weapons from more than two dozen countries.
Both in term of the number and value of contracts, the US is way ahead of other major suppliers, though Moscow still remains India’s predominant defense supplier.
It is needless to say that the bulk of the potent weapons in India’s arsenal are of Soviet/Russian origin and that some of these are not available for purchase from any other source.
What are the implications of CAATS over India?
If CAATS is implemented in its stringent form, is likely to affect India’s arms procurement from Russia in a number of ways.
It is likely to affect all the joint ventures (JVs) existing or planned between Indian and Russian defense companies.
The Act will also affect India’s purchase of spare parts, components, raw materials and other assistance from Russia.
Thus US authorities will try to influence their Indian counterparts to ignore the Russian platforms, though it is entirely up to India to make its own judgment.