As a pure idea, simultaneous polls to state Assemblies and the Lok Sabha is prima facie not bad. A government elected for a five-year term at the Centre will not be encumbered by regular election campaigns for state Assemblies.
It can give undivided attention to governance, bring about major policy changes in consonance with its broad objectives and orientation without being hampered by the prospect of having to go back for frequent endorsement from varied segments of the population across various states in between.
The demerits of the idea are also implicit in that. Among the merits, poll expenditures will surely be curbed. The BJP government in the Centre has been pushing for simultaneous polls for some time now. It has written to the Election Commission to give shape to the idea.
The Election Commission has indicated that, as far as the logistics go, by September 2018 it would be ready with the hardware. Orders have been placed, and the EC is expecting the Centre to release funds to the tune of Rs 3,400 crore for VVPATs and Rs 12,000 crore for EVMs. Is it then a dried and dusted fact? Are we all set for simultaneous polls from 2018? Not quite.
A few loose ends need to be tied up. Yogi Adityanath and Capt Amarinder Singh have to be persuaded to cut short the terms of their majority governments to enable the shift, not to mention the others. The EC cannot extend the term of an Assembly. The Parliament will have to put such Assemblies under President’s Rule.
No amendment will be required, but only if all state governments agree. That seems unlikely. Instead of a reprieve, it may become a political tug-of-war, especially if the Centre tries to amend Article 324 to give simultaneous elections a legal might, providing for terminating governments mid-term. Everything needs to be thought through—especially the critique that immunising a central regime for five years from popular endorsement may itself be anti-democratic.