NEW DELHI: The Centre on Saturday notified an eight-member high-level committee to examine the feasibility of holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha, state assemblies, municipalities as well as panchayats and make recommendations for the same.
Here’s all you need to know about the panel, its role and the idea behind simultaneous elections:
Who are the members of the panel?
The panel will be headed by former President Ram Nath Kovind.
It will have home minister Amit Shah, former leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, former finance commission chairman N K Singh, former Lok Sabha secrertary general Subhash C Kashyap, senior advocate Harish Salve and former Chief Vigilance Commissioner Sanjay Kothari as members.
Law minister Arjun Ram Meghwal will attend the meetings of the committee as a special invitee, while law secretary Niten Chandra will be the secretary to the panel.
Why did Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury exit the panel?
Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who was also included in the panel, has declined to serve in the committee.
The leader of opposition in Lok Sabha said that the panel’s “terms of reference have been prepared in a manner to guarantee its conclusions”. In a letter to Shah, Chowdhury added that the panel appears to be a “total eyewash.”
What will be the job of the panel?
According to the government notification, the panel will be tasked to do the following things:
○ Suggest any specific amendments to the Constitution, the Representation of the People Act, 1950, the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and the rules made thereunder for the purpose of holding simultaneous polls.
○ Suggest a framework for synchronisation of elections and specifically, suggest the phases and time frame within which simultaneous elections may be held if they cannot be held in one go and suggest any amendments to the Constitution and other laws in this regard and propose such rules that may be required in such circumstances.
○ Recommend necessary safeguards for ensuring the continuity of the cycle of simultaneous elections and recommend necessary amendments to the Constitution, so that the cycle of simultaneous elections is not disturbed
○ Examine the logistics and manpower required, including EVMs, VVPATs, etc, for holding such simultaneous elections
○ Examine and recommend the modalities of use of a single electoral roll and electoral identity cards for identification of voters in elections to Lok Sabha, state legislative assemblies, municipalities and panchayats.
○ Analyse and recommend possible solution in a scenario of simultaneous elections emerging out of hung House, adoption of no-confidence motion, or defection or any such other event.
Why are we talking about simultaneous elections?
The rationale behind conducting simultaneous elections is to end the “constant election cycle” in the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has consistently advocated for the concept of simultaneous elections at all levels. He has cited the financial burden of nearly continuous election cycles and their negative impact on development efforts as the key rationale for the proposal.
Those in favour say that simultaneous polls can help save time and money, and governments could get five stable years to focus on governance instead of worrying about winning polls.
However, those opposing it say that such an idea would undermine federalism and regional democracy. They say it would end up giving national parties a greater advantage over regional parties. They also say that such an exercise would be expensive and logistically challenging.
Read more about the pros and cons of simultaneous polls
Is simultaneous elections a new idea?
No. The concept of staging national, state and local/rural together is not new. In fact, simultaneous elections for the state assemblies and the Lok Sabha were held in India till 1967. However, in 1968 and 1969, some legislative assemblies were dissolved prematurely followed by the dissolution of the Lok Sabha in 1970. This forced a change in electoral schedules for the states and the country.
Do other countries conduct elections in a similar way?
If India somehow does implement simultaneous elections, it will be only the fourth country in the world to have such a system. Currently, South Africa, Belgium and Sweden are the only nations that conduct simultaneous elections.