Majors Before Centre-State Simultaneous Polls

Modi Cabinet

By Sunil Dang

Recently, on initiative of the central government, the Election Commission of India officially met with PM Narendra Modi and his cabinet colleagues at the Rashtrapati Bhawan to finalize the roadmap for conducting simultaneous central and state elections. In this meeting it was finalized that by 2019, those state elections which are around 3-4 months away from the Lok Sabha polls would go to the polls along with parliamentary elections. It was also discussed that if required, even the Lok Sabha Polls can be conducted few months earlier to ensure simultaneous state and parliamentary polls falling in time span of 3-4 months. If that happens, we may see Madhya Pradesh, Chhattishgarh, Rajasthan assembly polls taking place with the Indian general elections. As per reports coming in from the Elections Commission, by 2024 the road map has been shaped in such a way that all state and general elections would take place at one time so that developmental works can be ensured with smooth functioning. The Modi government has been skeptical about various polls taking place in different states which halts the developmental works not just in state but in centre too due to the model code of conduct. Glaring example was opposition’s demand to hold the national budget ahead of the UP assembly polls. They were demanding that it should be hold till the UP polls were not over means the national budget which was expected to take place in February was to be presented in mid May. Phew!

However, I would like to point out that Modi is not the first PM who is batting for conducting state and assembly polls simultaneously. It was tried in 1977 too, when the Janata Government was formed. But, due to the various state governments losing their majority led to the fiasco of such experiment as Mid Term polls forced election Commission to go back to its practice of separate general and state elections. So, if the Elections Commission and the central government are seriously thinking of simultaneous state and central elections, then they will have to make sure that a government lasts for five years. In such a scenario, there should be a solution if there is no majority to any single party or alliance. There should be a solution if an alliance, which won a majority, breaks down before five years of its term. Here, I would like to clarify that it’s not that only state government falls mid-way of its term. Even, central governments have been found losing their majority before the completion of their term.

An ideal solution in case of fractured mandate or break up of an alliance or party could be proportional representation of various political parties in the government on the basis of seats won by them or the percentage of votes polled by the political parties. Yes! I am batting about national government or state government if there is a fractured mandate. This solution may not be enough till it’s clear about which party would get the post of Prime Minister or Chief Minister because it may become a bone of contention among various parties that who should be the Chief Minister of the Prime Minister. So, there should be clarity on this and ideally it should go to the single largest party or single largest pre-poll alliance. Our experience with cabinet formation suggests that making it easy to decide PM or CM would also won’t be enough as leaders and political parties have been found fighting for their preferred cabinet portfolio. However, in such a case, we don’t need any solution as this power is already vested with the leader of the house i.e. PM or CM, and the practice needs to be continued as this power comes from the constitution which is supreme in any democracy.