Most of the smaller political parties have favoured the idea of holding simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, which will substantially reduce the burden on the state exchequer.
These parties told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, headed by E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan that simultaneous elections is a cost effective noble proposal, though it is difficult to implement because of constitutional arrangement, which mandates that the tenure of Lok Sabha and a state Assembly cannot be extended beyond five years, except in the case of Emergency.
The AIADMK supported the idea in principle but said there are likely to be some key issues which would have to be resolved before such a practice can be adopted. The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) told the panel that it supported the idea as it would reduce financial burden on small parties and reduce the time period for which model code of conduct is applied to the states which often leads to policy paralysis and slows down the implementation of developmental programmes.
The Indian Union Muslim League supported the idea saying it would lead to significant saving of time, energy and resources of the country. The DMDK, while supporting the idea, has given some suggestions. One such suggestion says that if a government is formed after premature dissolution, its term should be fixed for the remaining period only.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) also expressed its support for the idea but raised some issues like what will happen in case there is a situation of hung assembly and no party is in a position to form the government. The party cited the example of Assembly elections in Delhi in 2013.
The Congress, however, completely rejected the idea. “The proposal of holding simultaneous elections— ideal as it may sound— is impractical, unworkable and can lead to a scenario where the necessary balance in India’s democracy given the diversity of the country is lost.” There was no mention of BJP’s comment in the committee’s report.
The Trinamool Congress has rejected the idea of simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. It said it favoured the same in case of panchayat and municipal bodies. According to the CPI, the proposal looks ideal, but there are many practical problems for implementing it.
The Election Commission, on the other hand, has suggested Constitutional amendment so that terms of all state Assemblies come to an end on the date on which term of the Lok Sabha is expiring. “That may also mean, to begin with as one time measure, that the term for the existing Legislative Assemblies will have to be either extended beyond five years or curtailed so that fresh elections can be held simultaneously with Lok Sabha election,” the Commission told the Parliamentary panel.
The committee, in its report, noted that “most of the political parties and other stakeholders with whom the committee interacted are in support of the idea of holding simultaneous elections in principle.” “The parties which have disagreed with the proposal have done so as they feel that it is against the current Constitutional and statutory framework.”
The committee has admitted that holding of simultaneous elections many not be feasible in 2016 or even in a decade, but expressed confidence that a solution would be found.
There is a precedence of holding simultaneous elections. In South Africa, elections to national as well as provincial legislatures are held simultaneously for five years and municipal elections are held two years later. In Sweden, election to national legislature (Riksdag) and provincial legislature/county council (Iandsting) and local bodies/municipal assemblies (Kommunfullmaktige) are held on a fixed date, i.e. on the second Sunday in September for four years.