Finally a balloon has been authoritatively pricked ~ at least for the immediate future. The categorical assertion of the Chief Election Commissioner that there will be no simultaneous polls for the assemblies of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram and Chhattisgarh along with the Lok Sabha elections (due in the spring/summer of 2019) should ease tensions that some suspect were mischievously triggered by the BJP to throw a spanner in the works of its rivals.
This effectively nips an idea which had some welcome features but one that required major changes in law and at least a broad political consensus in order to come to fruition. Will the possible loss of even a single state poll impact the peoples’ pick in the parliamentary contest?
Mr Narendra Modi has enjoyed a comfortable majority for the past four years or so, there is no need for him and his squad to adopt their combative posture and focus on their achievements, without always contrasting them with the performance (non-performance?) of earlier governments ~ including the one headed by the much-lamented Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It is difficult to imagine why there must be a constant endeavour to prove themselves the best at everything.
The pressure for combined parliament and assembly polls could be seen as a desire to establish a grip on the entire country, perhaps even to use achievements at the Centre to paper over shortcomings in some states, or vice versa. The “advantages” of reduced expenditure and fewer administrative headaches is only partially valid.
What will be the cost of adequate EVMs for simultaneous polls, who will produce so many, and where will they be safely stored? Arrangements for deploying election staff will be gigantic, and when even at present security personnel have to be moved from one place to another the exercise will be monumental if simultaneous polls are scheduled.
The time-span would be further extended, and all other governmental activity brought to nationwide standstill ~ even if only once in five years. And the judicial system will be even further clogged when election petitions gush forth like the flood waters in Kerala.
Single-party rule across the country ~ as did prevail when Nehru was bolstered by the momentum of the freedom struggle ~ would prove more costly than the frequent but area-limited elections of today. Maybe many a leader would be rendered jobless if called upon to wave the party flag just once in five years.
Democracy is an expensive, laborious process, no price tag can be attached to regional aspirations that could be trampled underfoot if the polls were held in unison. A major check and balance would be eliminated by single-party rule.
Does the BJP never conceive that the single party in power might not be itself? Admittedly that with Rahul at the helm, the Congress can only dream of regaining its once-premier position, but a true democracy has to think beyond any individual’s ambition.