18th APRIL 2016
Answer questions in NOT MORE than 200 words each. Content of the answer is more important than its length.
Links are provided for reference. You can also use the Internet fruitfully to further enhance and strengthen your answers.
GS II : POLITY
1. Discuss the pros and cons of holding elections to Parliament, State legislatures and local bodies in India simultaneously. Is this a practical idea for India? Clearly state your stand with justification.
· ‘The permanent campaign’ was a phrase coined and popularised by Sidney Blumenthal, adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton, in his 1980 book that lamented the culture of election campaigns crowding out time for policymaking. Prime Minister Narendra Modi agrees with Mr. Blumenthal. He recently bemoaned the incessant demands of electioneering for various State elections leaving little time for governance. He called for reforming India’s electoral cycle to hold simultaneous elections to State Legislatures and Parliament, ostensibly to break out of this ‘permanent campaign’ syndrome.
· In India’s own version of the ‘permanent campaign’, in the last 30 years, there has not been a single year in which there has been no election either to a State Assembly or to Parliament.
· Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a case for holding elections to Parliament, State legislatures and local bodies simultaneously.
· A Group of Ministers (GoM), headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh discussed the proposal with Election Commission officials.
· Certainly the proposal is far from new, having been made earlier by top BJP leaders. L.K. Advani has advocated it on an occasion.
· BJP’s manifestos for the 2009 and 2014 general elections promised to “evolve a method of holding Assembly and Lok Sabha elections simultaneously”.
Law Commission’s recommendation:
· The Law Commission’s 170th report submitted to the then BJP government in 1999 on electoral reform had said “this cycle of elections every year, and in the out of season, should be put an end to” and recommended a gradual move towards simultaneous elections once in five years.
Parliamentary standing committee’s recommendation:
· The 78th report of the parliamentary standing committee of Law and Justice that had been asked to go into the issue in detail. The report was submitted in December 2015.
· The committee recommended a two-phase election schedule to make the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls coterminous, but had raised uneasiness in different political parties.
· The panel has envisaged holding of elections of some assemblies at mid-term of Lok Sabha and remaining with the end of tenure of Lok Sabha.
· It said the "proposed first phase" could be held in November, 2016. Elections to all state assemblies whose terms end prior to or after a time period of six months to one year from the appointed election date could be clubbed together. "The terms of some legislative assemblies may need to be extended while some of them may need to be curtailed," committee said, adding gaining consensus of all political parties may be difficult in certain states.
· India’s first four elections were held simultaneously for national and State legislatures.
· The first general elections to the Lok Sabha was held simultaneously with all State Assemblies in 1951-52.
· That practice continued in three subsequent general elections held in the years — 1957, 1962 and 1967.
· However, due to the premature dissolution of some Legislative Assemblies in 1968 and 1969, the cycle got disrupted.
· In 1970, the Lok Sabha was itself dissolved prematurely and fresh elections were held in 1971. The term of the fifth Lok Sabha was extended till 1977 under Article 352.
· After that, the eighth, tenth, fourteenth and fifteenth Lok Sabha could complete their five year terms.
· The sixth, seventh, ninth, eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth ones were dissolved prematurely.
· As a result of premature dissolutions and extension of terms of both the Lok Sabha and various State Assemblies, the last 48 years have seen separate elections to the Lok Sabha and the Assemblies.
· That this link has been firmly broken provides an inkling of the difficulties in mandating it for India’s Westminster-inspired parliamentary democracy.
· check election expenditure
· It would save a lot of money, resources and effort, and spare officials like school teachers from great inconvenience
· impart stability to State governments.
· free the Central government from a populism that is forced on it by a constantly ticking election cycle,
· end the repeated pause on decision-making because of the model code of conduct.
· how do fixed-term legislatures square up with other constitutional and democratic processes, such as the requirement that the government command the confidence of the Lower House?
· if a State government was dissolved within six months, it couldn’t be expected to wait four years for the next elections
· Given that partisan stand-offs are inhibiting cooperation across the aisles, to dispense with the option of returning to the people for a refreshed mandate would be self-defeating.
· If we keep fixed tenures then we will be going against the spirit of democracy, and one party will be able to run like a dictator for five years,
· In fixed-term legislatures, as in the U.S., there is a clear separation between the legislature and the head of government. Such a system is far removed in a Parliamentary form of government.
· Voter behavior:
§ On average, there is a 77 per cent chance that the Indian voter will vote for the same party for both the State and Centre when elections are held simultaneously.
§ In other words, when handed two ballots at the same time to choose their representative for both Parliament and State Assembly, voters chose the same party in 77 per cent of the cases in 2014.
§ This trend of choosing the same party has gone from 68 per cent in 1999 to 77 per cent in 2004 to 76 per cent in 2009 and 86 per cent in 2014.
§ Justifiable attempts to alter India’s permanent election malaise can have a tangible and perhaps undesirable impact on voter behaviour.