Frequent code of conduct causes policy paralysis; Kovind Committee submits 18,626-page report
NEW DELHI, Mar 14 (The CONNECT) – The High level Committee on Simultaneous Elections constituted under the chairmanship of former President Ram Nath Kovind today submitted its report to President Droupadi Murmu, The Report, comprising 18,626 pages, is an outcome of extensive consultations with stakeholders, experts and research work of 191 days, since its constitution on 2 September, 2023.
Simultaneous Elections were, by and large, in vogue till the fourth general elections of 1967. With the disruption of the cycle of Simultaneous Elections, thereafter, the country now faces five to six elections in a year. If Municipalities and Panchayat elections are also included, the number of elections will increase manifold.
The Kovind Committee held extensive consultations to understand the views of different stakeholders. 47 political parties submitted their views and suggestions, out of which 32 supported simultaneous elections. Many political parties had extensive discussions with the HLC on this matter.
In response to a public notice published in newspapers in all the States and Union territories, 21,558 responses were received from citizens from all over India. 80 per cent of the respondents supported simultaneous elections. Experts on law such as four former Chief Justices of India and twelve former Chief Justices of major High Courts, four former Chief Election Commissioners of India, eight State Election Commissioners, and Chairman, Law Commission of India were invited by the Committee for interaction in person. Views of the Election Commission of India were also sought.
Apex business organizations like the CII, FICCI, ASSOCHAM and eminent economists were also consulted to present their views on the economic repercussions of asynchronous elections. They advocated the economic imperative of simultaneous elections on account of the effect of asynchronous elections on fuelling inflation and slowing down the economy. The Committee was briefed by these bodies that intermittent elections had adverse consequences on economic growth, quality of public expenditure, educational and other outcomes, besides upsetting social harmony.
After careful consideration of all suggestions and viewpoints, the Committee recommends a two-step approach to lead to the simultaneous elections.
As the first step, simultaneous elections will be held for the House of the People and the State Legislative Assemblies. In the second step, elections to the Municipalities and the Panchayats will be synchronized with the House of the People and the State Legislative Assemblies in such a way that Municipalities and Panchayats elections are held within hundred days of holding elections to the House of the People and the State Legislative Assemblies.
The Committee also recommends that there should be a single electoral roll and Electoral Photo Identity Cards (EPIC) for use in elections to all the three tiers of Government.
In tune with its mandate to explore the mechanism for simultaneous elections, and keeping in view the existing framework of the Constitution, the Committee has crafted its recommendations in such a way that they are in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution of India and would require bare minimum amendments to the Constitution.
Upon all-inclusive deliberations, the Committee concludes that its recommendations will significantly enhance transparency, inclusivity, ease and confidence of the voters. Overwhelming support for holding simultaneous elections will spur development process and social cohesion, deepen the foundations of our democratic rubric, and realize the aspirations of India, that is Bharat.
Frequent elections burden the government exchequer with additional expenditure. If the expenditure incurred by political parties is also added, these figures will be even higher. Asynchronous elections cause uncertainty and instability, thwarting supply chains, business investments, economic growth, quality of public expenditure, educational and other outcomes besides upsetting the social harmony.
Disruption of government machinery due to asynchronous elections causes hardship to citizens. Frequent use of government officials and security forces adversely affect discharge of their duties. Frequent imposition of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) causes policy paralysis and slows down the pace of the developmental programmes.
Staggered elections induce ‘voters’ fatigue’ and present a significant challenge in ensuring their participation
Simultaneous Elections ensure ease and convenience to voters, avoids voters’ fatigue and facilitate greater voter turnout. Synchronising elections would result in higher economic growth and stability as it would enable businesses to take decisions without fear of adverse policy changes.
Conducting elections to all three tiers of the Government together would avoid disruption of supply chains and production cycles due to migrant workers seeking leave of absence to cast their vote. Simultaneous Elections enhance focus on governance and prevent policy paralysis.
Frequent elections create an atmosphere of uncertainty and impact policy decisions. Holding Simultaneous Elections would bring enhanced certainty in policy making.
Simultaneous Elections would reduce financial burden on the government exchequer by avoiding duplication of expenditure on intermittent elections. Adoption of Simultaneous Elections would result in optimised use of scarce resources and result in increased capital investment and asset creation.
Synchronising electoral calendars would ensure availability of more time for governance and unhindered delivery of public services to citizens. Simultaneous Elections would reduce the number of election related offences and disputes and reduce burden on courts. Simultaneous Elections would result in avoidance of duplication of efforts and saving of time and energy of government officials, political workers and security forces.
Holding of elections once every five years would result in mitigation of social disharmony and conflict, which is often observed during elections.
The other members of the Committee were Amit Shah, Union Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Cooperation, Ghulam Nabi Azad, former Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, N.K. Singh, former Chairman, 15th Finance Commission, Dr. Subhash C. Kashyap, former Secretary General, Lok Sabha, Harish Salve, Senior Advocate, and Sanjay Kothari, former Chief Vigilance Commissioner. Arjun Ram Meghwal, Minister of State (Independent Charge) Ministry of Law and Justice was a Special Invitee and Dr. Niten Chandra was the Secretary of the Committee.