Talk of advancing the 2019 General Election by a year coincides with the BJP’s suggestion to hold simultaneous Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly elections. Prime Minister Narendra Modi set the ball rolling in April 2016 when, while addressing the Parliament, he said – “These days there is talk of frequent elections. People say hold simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly polls...because things get stalled and a lot of time is spent on elections.”
Since then, Union Ministers, BJP leaders and even President Ram Nath Kovind have echoed a similar view. The Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat told reporters that logistically, it will be ready to hold simultaneous polls by September 2018.
Of the parties that have stated their positions, Congress’ P Chidambaram dismissed the buzz around early elections as another ‘jumla’ and the Left, which has consistently been against the idea of simultaneous polls, said it was not feasible.
But what would it mean for people like us, if the government does in fact turn the election clock back to the pre-1967 era when the Centre and the States went to vote together? Here’s what’s at stake.
In August 2017, the National Institution for Transforming India or the Niti Aayog, which is the government’s policy think tank, released a discussion paper on the idea of holding simultaneous elections. Authored by Bibek Debroy and Kishore Desai, it favoured conducting synchronised two-phase Lok Sabha and assembly elections from 2024. This, the report said, would require a maximum one-time curtailment or extension of some state assemblies.
Further it defined “Simultaneous Elections” as structuring the Indian election cycle in a manner that elections to Lok Sabha and State Assemblies are synchronised to be held together. In such a scenario, a voter would normally cast his/her vote for electing members of Lok Sabha and State Assembly on a single day and at the same time. To clarify further, simultaneous elections do not mean that voting across the country for Lok Sabha and State Assemblies needs to happen on a single day. This can be conducted in a phase-wise manner as per the existing practice provided voters in a particular constituency vote for both State Assembly and Lok Sabha the same day.