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Unless there is debate and consensus among all the parties, no change in electoral pattern can be expected in India
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The Election Commission of India's (ECI) announcement that it will be ready with infra-structure and logistics to hold simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies of the states across India in 2018 has raised more questions than it answers on federalism in the country. In fact, it is a far-fetched idea of the right wing Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), which wants total control over the Parliament and state legislatures for carrying on its political ambitions in the country. BJP has been pushing for a change on the electoral system in India and a unitary and totalitarian regime for the past two decades. The BJP leaders' argument that simultaneous elections can save money on elections and ensure political stability does not have many buyers, who believe that the federal structure enshrined in the Constitution of India allows check and balance in the political equilibrium. Second argument that it will allow one party to carry forward its political programme across the country besides avoiding frequent interruptions in holding elections in different parts of the country every year has also been opposed by many political beings. It is interesting to note that almost half a dozen states go to elections every year for one reason or the other and the BJP leadership wants to do away with such a phenomenon without realising why this is happening in such a big country, which is a sub-continent in itself. While some of the BJP leaders have argued that this change in the electoral pattern is open to debate, but somewhere in the back of their mind, they just want to push for unitary system which suits their avowed agenda of complete control over the centre and the states. The saner argument is that it is practically impossible since political alignments in states are different because of the presence of the regional parties which hold sway over the electorate challenging the hegemony of the national parties, which are bigger in size and want to eat away the space of regional players. Even in the event of national parties having made in-roads in many states, the former get only one term occasionally to form governments as an alternative to regional parties. In certain states, the national parties are not even counted because the regional parties are themselves fighting it out for retaining governments for more than one term. In some cases, one complete term of regional parties is cut short for various reasons of minority governments or defections as a result mid-term elections are forced on the people.

Apart from this idea of simultaneous elections, there have been occasions when the central government of one party fell due to minority while the legislatures of the states were intact and completed their full term. What will be the scenario in such a situation when the party at the centre loses to the opposition pressure and new coalition comes to power due to cobbling up of an alliance of different parties including those which supported the previous government. Similarly, what will happen to the state assemblies where they have come to power with alliance partners and the latter withdraw support mid-way and tie up with the opposition to retain power. Similarly, new regional parties which emerge on the scene decided to pull down the state as well as the central governments because of the fact, the agenda of the ruling parties does not suit the regional players. Or in another cases, one politician leading a government in a state suddenly decides to change horse in mid-stream and form another alliance with the ruling party or the opposition holding reins of power at the centre. The examples are not far to seek in such scenarios. The country has been witness to change of governments in the last one year when half a dozen states went to polls and majority of the ruling party governments were pulled down or totally replaced by the electorate in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Goa and Assam. The example of Bihar chief minister changing horses mid-stream is also before the people. In other states last year, the BJP was totally defeated when it was running high-pitched campaigns for support from the people but it got nowhere close to power in many states two years back. Only horse-trading was helping the BJP or other political parties to gain power through the backdoor. The slogan of BJP, being a party with a difference was nowhere in sight because, it was also copying the horse-trading methods of Congress for getting close to the power. So, it is becoming clear that BJP only wants to push forward its own agenda for coming to power through hook or crook for gaining complete control over centre and states simultaneously. At this, it appears that the BJP wants to go in for a complete change of electoral system to adopt a Presidential form of government without giving a thought to federal system that is working in India for the last 70 years. But there has to be consensus among all the political parties for ushering in a new electoral pattern in the country with overhaul of Constitution.

News Updated at : Saturday, October 7, 2017
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