Source: News Bharati English08 Oct 2016 15:52:06

Depoliticisation of the Indian Electoral Polity….a daring target

Dr.Sharad V.Khare, VISSR, Pune

Electoral politics has been the fibre of the Indian federal electoral polity.

The new Government at the Center in India seems to be determined by substituting everything that is not Indian or Indianised or of Indian origin. It may be a planning process, or ideas or socio-cultural programmes aimed at development. The School of thought which believes in that development of the society and the individual citizen is interwoven with the administrative policy in the process of good governance seems to be the keyword of ‘Modi mantra’. Therefore , after  Vajpayee’s  historical decision of changing the introductory time of the presentation of the national budget from evenings to mornings spearheaded the consequent follow-up of expanding the scope of the size and content of the national budget by merging the ‘railway budget’ into the mainstream. It is believed that such an exercise would save railway’s Rs.Ten thousand cores annually in the Union exchequer.  What a mathematical point of the strike! It is not merely a saving device, it also signals a concern for the ‘nation’.

Even  in  the Government of India Act , 1935, the Act provided for an Indian  federal policy , under First Schedule ( Sections 5 , 18 , and 308 ) , a Federal Legislature composed of ( Part I )  Representatives of British India, and  Representatives of Indian States ( Part II ). The Act  further  provided for a Provincial  Legislature under  Fifth Schedule ( Section 61 ) ,entitling representation to elective representatives from amongst (i) backward areas and backward tribes , (ii) Sikhs , (iii) Muhammadans  (iv) Anglo-Indians (v) Europeans  (vi) Indian Christians (vii) representatives of commerce, industry , mining , planting , ( viii)  landholders universities , and (ix) labour . There were no adult franchises and therefore electoral colleges electing Muslim or Sikhs would be elected by the same community electors. It is also interesting to note that under the Fifth Schedule (Section 61), clause 4. 1, seven seats were reserved for Maratha communities in the Provincial Legislative Assemblies.

The idea of federal administration in the modern sense is not anything new to Indian political administration, but it is articulated systematically perhaps for the first time by the British imperial power in the British Indian colonial region. Political administration based on electoral exercises in the interests of public administration certainly is the typical British view, which they themselves had adopted for Great Britain, esp. after the proclamation of ‘Magna Charta’,

It is interesting to note that for the first time the poll watchdog has officially expressed its willingness to conduct Lok Sabha and state polls together. Daily ‘Indian Express’ has reported that the Standing Committee of the Parliament has gone on record as following:

Standing Committee Report Summary Feasibility of holding simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies:

THE Election Commission has supported the idea of holding simultaneous elections to the Parliament and State Assemblies, in a letter sent to the Law Ministry in the first week of May  stated  This is the first time the poll watchdog has officially expressed its willingness to conduct Lok Sabha and state polls together.

“In so far as the Election Commission is concerned, the issues involved in holding simultaneous elections are not insurmountable for it. If there is political consensus and will across the board, needless to say, that the Commission supports the idea of considering simultaneous elections,” the two-page letter states.

The Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice (Chairperson: Dr E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan) submitted its report on the „Feasibility of Holding Simultaneous Elections to House of People (Lok Sabha) and State Legislative Assemblies‟ on December 17, 2015.  Need for holding simultaneous elections: The Committee noted that the holding of simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and state assemblies would reduce:

(i)    The massive expenditure that is currently incurred for the conduct of separate elections;

(ii)     The policy paralysis that results from the imposition of the Model Code of Conduct during election time; and

(iii)     Impact on the delivery of essential services and

(iv)     The burden on crucial manpower that is deployed during election time.

Recommendations of the Law Commission:  (245th Report).   The Committee referred to the recommendations of the Law Commission of India, which had suggested that elections of legislative assemblies whose term ends six months after the general elections to Lok Sabha can be clubbed together. However, the results of such elections can be declared at the end of the assembly‟s tenure. 

Conditions for holding early elections: The Committee noted that the Representation of People Act, 1951 permits the Election Commission to notify general elections six months prior to the end of the terms of Lok Sabha and state assemblies. 

The Committee recommended that in order to hold early elections to Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies, one of two conditions must be met:  

(i) A motion for an early general election must be agreed to by at least two-thirds of all members of the House;   or 

 (ii)   A no-confidence motion must be passed by the House, and with no alternative government being confirmed within 14 days of passing a confidence motion.

 Holding of elections in two phases:  The Committee recommended that elections could be held in two phases. It stated that elections to some Legislative Assemblies could be held during the midterm of Lok Sabha. Elections to the remaining legislative assemblies could be held with the end of Lok Sabha‟s term.

However, there is another, the different point of view:  I   Quote.

“Simultaneous Election to Parliament and Assemblies “--- By:  Hemant Sarin Reference to an article from ‘live law.in' published on September 10, 2016.

“The President, Dr.Pranab Mukherjee, has reportedly supported the idea of simultaneous elections being conducted for the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies. Prior to him, the Prime Minister had also given a call advocating such polls. Way back in 1999, the Law Commission of India in its 170th Report on Reform of Electoral Laws recommended “….. Yet the holding of a separate election to a Legislative Assembly should be an exception and not the rule. The rule ought to be one election once in five years for Lok Sabha and all the Legislative Assemblies”. As recent as in December 2015, the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice in its 79th Report on the ‘Feasibility of Holding Simultaneous Elections to the House of People (Lok Sabha) and State Legislative Assemblies’ also supported such an endeavour The Constitution came into force on 26.1.1950 and thereafter our country has been through 16 polls to the Lok Sabha. The First General Elections to the Lok Sabha and all State Legislative Assemblies were held simultaneously in 1951-52 and this practice continued in the three subsequent General Elections held in 1957, 1962 and 1967. However, thereafter, the cycle got disrupted due to premature dissolution of some State Assemblies. Seats in the State Assemblies. Today there are 543 seats to be filled in the Lok Sabha and 4120 seats in State Assemblies. The number of voters has also gone up manifold.

“Those advocating for simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies highlight the benefits of such an exercise which would include : reduction of expenditure; less disruption of development works which get stalled when the Model Code of Conduct comes into operation on the notification of an election; better governance since there will be less disruption; continuance of normal public life which gets disturbed by frequent rallies, traffic chaos, noise pollution, etc.; and better human resource deployment. No doubt the holding of simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies would be a step forward. However, the fact remains that the tenure of either the Lok Sabha or a State Assembly cannot be curtailed or extended except by amending the Constitution, proclamation of Emergency aside. For holding simultaneous elections some State Assemblies may require being dissolved before the end of their tenure while some may require continuing beyond their tenure. No political party in power would agree in the first scenario while no political party in opposition would agree to the second scenario. Several political parties have already expressed their reservations. Further, security in one big reason why polls even in a single State are spread over several phases. Logistics is another major issue which may be a stumbling block for holding a simultaneous election. The quantum of ballot papers or EVMs, their transportation and safekeeping, a number of polling stations to be set-up, man-power, polling hours (our North-Eastern States wakes up a couple of hours before the rest of the country), weather, etc. raise a number of questions about the feasibility of holding simultaneous elections. In the 1951-52, there were 489 seats to be filled in the Lok Sabha and 3278 elections, though attractive, may not be achievable in the near future.”

(Hemant Sarin is a Lawyer practising in Punjab and Haryana High Court.)

Thus is another different point of view with which, the present author does not fully agree although the queries and difficulties expressed are very important ones. Since any party in power has the prerogative to choose an opportune time to call for a fresh mandate.  It is essentially a political decision, a constitutional option without contradicting it.

 The American Federal Experiences:

Let us refer to the text of the Constitution of the USA which mentions the basic tenets of the constitution framing exercise which specifically  states- ‘Principles of the Constitution include checks and balances, individual rights, liberty, limited government, natural rights theory, republican government, and popular sovereignty.

Antecedent documents to the Constitution include the political writings about natural rights theory and forms of government by John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Montesquieu, and English charters of liberty including the Magna Carta and the English Bill of Rights. James Madison saw one important difference between those documents and the Constitution, however: “In Europe, charters of liberty have been granted by power. America has set the example . . . of charters of power granted by liberty.”

There were 57 Presidential elections until President Barak Obama, in the USA since 1788 

In the Constitution of the United States, Article II lays down provisions of the election of the American Executive, which states….

“Section 1. The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years, and, together with the Vice-President, chosen for the same term, be elected, as follows:

“Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector.

“The electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves. And they shall make a list of all the persons voted for, and of the number of votes for each; which list they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates, and the votes shall then be counted. The person having the greatest number of votes shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such majority, and have an equal number of votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately choose by ballot one of them for President; and if no person have a majority, then from the five highest on the list the said House shall in like manner choose the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by States, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. In every case, after the choice of the President, the person having the greatest number of votes of the electors shall be the Vice-President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal votes, the Senate shall choose from them by ballot the Vice President.

“The Congress may determine the time of choosing the electors, and the day on which they shall give their votes; which day shall be the same throughout the United States.

“No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States”.

The purpose of referring to the American experience is only to suggest as to how the American statesmen have carefully avoided politicising the electoral process at the highest level. It is, of course, true that the US is governed under the Presidential form of government and it requires a different method of political governance. It is the politicisation which is importantly targeted.

Under Article 324  to  Article 329A  of the Constitution of India, the Election Commission of India, internal, is vested with the power of superintendence, direction and control of conducting the elections to the offices of the President and Vice-President of India. Detailed provisions are made under the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Act, 1952 and the rules made thereunder.  Besides these, the ECI conducts elections to the State Legislative Assemblies and Legislative Councils. Further, according to the recent amendments , ( 73rd Amendment ( Article 243 (A) to  (O)   mandatory  elections to the rural local self-government agencies  and  under 74th  Amendment to  Article 243  from  243  (P ) to  243 ( ZG ) elections to the urban local self-government agencies  , the States’ Regional   Election Commissions are required to conduct mandatory elections to all the local self-government agencies in rural and urban areas  in that particular state .

Budget & Expenditure:

The Secretariat of the Commission has an independent budget, which is finalised directly in consultation between the Commission and the Finance Ministry of the Union Government. The latter generally accepts the recommendations of the Commission for its budgets. The major expenditure on the actual conduct of elections is, however, reflected in the budgets of the concerned constituent units of the Union - States and Union Territories. If elections are being held only for the Parliament, the expenditure is borne entirely by the Union Government while for the elections being held only for the State Legislature, the expenditure is borne entirely by the concerned State. In the case of simultaneous elections to the Parliament and State Legislature, the expenditure is shared equally between the Union and the State Governments. For Capital equipment, expenditure related to preparation for electoral rolls and the scheme for Electors' Identity Cards too, the expenditure is shared equally.

The cost of democracy. Expenditure on the General Elections to Lok Sabha in India:

Year                   Cost (Rs in Cr)

 

1952                           104.5

 

1957                            105.9

 

1977                             123

 

1980                              154

 

1989                               154

 

1991                                359

 

1996                                597

 

1998                                666

 

1999                                880

 

2009                              1,400

2014                               3,600

 

It is to be noted that the expenditure incurred to maintain democracy in India, the State spent from Rs.10.45 crores in 1952 to a huge amount of Rs.3500 crores in 2014.

(Source:  Wikipedia)

All the following tables from Pg.7 to 23 have been picked up from Wikipedia network.

The following table will present a broad outline of the General Elections held in India so far.       

 

      Largest party   Second largest   Third largest  
Year Election Total seats Party Seats  % votes Party Seats  % votes Party Seats  % votes
1951-52 1st Lok Sabha 489 INC 364 0.4499 CPI 16 0.0329 SOC 12 0.1059
1957 [13] 2nd Lok Sabha 494 INC 371 0.4778 CPI 27 0.0892 PSP 19 0.1041
1962 3rd Lok Sabha 494 INC 361 0.4472 CPI 29 0.0994 SWA 18 0.0789
1967 4th Lok Sabha 520 INC 283 0.4078 SWA 44 0.0867 BJS 35 0.0931
1971 5th Lok Sabha 518 INC 352 0.4368 CPM 25 0.0512 CPI 23 0.0473
1977 6th Lok Sabha 542 BLD 295 0.4132 INC 154 0.3452 CPM 22 0.0429
1980 7th Lok Sabha 529 ( 542* ) INC(I) 351 0.4269 JNP(S) 41 0.0939 CPM 37 0.0624
1984 8th Lok Sabha 541 INC 404 0.4901 TDP 30 0.0431 CPM 22 0.0587
1989 9th Lok Sabha 529 INC 197 0.3953 JD 143 0.1779 BJP 85 0.1136
1991 10th Lok Sabha 521 INC 232 0.3626 BJP 120 0.2011 JD 59 0.1184
1996 11th Lok Sabha 543 BJP 161 0.2029 INC 140 0.288 JD 46 0.2345
1998 12th Lok Sabha 543 BJP 182 0.2559 INC 141 0.2582 CPM 32 0.0516
1999 13th Lok Sabha 543 BJP 182 0.2375 INC 114 0.283 CPM 33 0.054
2004 14th Lok Sabha 543 INC 145 0.2653 BJP 138 0.2216 CPM 43 0.0566
2009 15th Lok Sabha 543 INC 206 0.2855 BJP 116 0.188 SP 23 0.0323
2014 16th Lok Sabha 543 BJP 282 0.3134 INC 44 0.1952 AIADMK 37 0.0331

 Government expenditure:

The cost per voter in the 2014 general elections was Rest 17, a twenty-fold increase over the first election, held in 1952. The total expenditure for the 2014 general election was Rest 3600 cores; the 1952 election cost Rest 104.5 million total.

1920:  Legislative Assembly:

PartySeatsLeaderDemocratic Party:   48 -Hari Singh GourOther parties and Independents –47; Europeans -9.   Total --104    (Source: Schwartzberg Atlas / Wikipedia).

1923 :   Legislative Assembly
Grouping Seats Leader
Swaraj Party 38 Motilal Nehru
Indian Liberal Party 27 H. N. Kunzru
Independents 7 Muhammad Ali Jinnah
Loyalists 6 Sir Darcy Lindsay
Brahmins 3  
Gurdwara Sikhs 2  
Liberals 2  
Unknown allegiance 20  
Appointed members 40  
Total 145  
Source: The Times[4]/Wikipedia .

 

Province Anti-Ministerialists Justice Party Swaraj Party Others Independents Appointed Unfilled seats Total
Assam     14 39     0 53
Bengal     49 87     3 139
Bihar and Orissa     12 82     9 103
Central Provinces     50 19     0 69
Bombay     32 72     7 111
Madras 37 44 11 6 0 28 0 127
Punjab     28 65     0 93
United Provinces     38 84     1 123
Source: The Times,  Saroja Sundararajan/Wikipedia 
 Seats that were unfilled as of 1 January 1924

 

Central Legislative Assembly  : 1926 :
Party Seats Leader
Swaraj Party 38 Motilal Nehru
Nationalist Party 22 Madan Mohan Malaviya
Central Muslims and Allies 18 Sir Zulfiqar Ali Khan
Independents 13 Muhammad Ali Jinnah
Minor parties, unattached independents, unknown 5  
Europeans 9 Sir Darcy Lindsay
Total 105  
Source: Schwartzberg Atlas

 

Central  Legislative Assembly :  1930
Party   Seats Leader  
Nationalist Party   40 Hari Singh Gour  
Independent groupings   30 Abdur Rahim  
Minor parties, unattached independents, unknown   25    
Europeans   9 Sir Leslie Hudson  
Total   104    
Source: Schwartzberg Atlas/ Wikipedia

 

Party Seats Leader
Indian National Congress 42 Bhulabhai Desai
Congress Nationalist Party 12 Madhav Shrihari Aney
Europeans 8 Sir Leslie Hudson
People's (Leading Separationists) Party 3  
Independents 41 Muhammad Ali Jinnah
Appointed members 41  
Total 147  
Source: The Times  Schwartzberg Atlas/ Wikipedia 

 

Legislative Assemblies
Province Congress Muslim League Other parties Independents Total
Assam 33 10 24 (Muslim Party) 27 108
      14 (Non-Congress)    
Bengal 54 37 36 (Krishak Praja Party) 113 250
      10 (Independent Muslims)    
Bihar 92   12 48 152
Bombay 86 18 14 (Ambedkarites) 42 175
      9 (Non-Brahmin)    
      6 (Other)    
Central Provinces 70 5 8 (Muslim Parliamentary Board) 21 112
      8 (Other)    
Madras 159 9 21 (Justice Party) 26 215
North West Frontier Province 19   7 (Hindu-Sikh Nationalists) 24 50
Orissa 36   14 10 60
Punjab 18 1 95 (Unionist Party) 22 175
      14 (Khalsa National Board)    
      11 (Hindu Election Board)    
      10 (Akalis)    
      4 (Other)    
Sind 7   17 (United Party) 5 60
      16 (Ghulam Husain's)    
      12 (Hindu)    
      3 (Europeans)    
United Provinces 133 26 22 (National Agriculturists) 47 228
Total 707 106 397 385 1585

 

Legislative Councils
Province Congress Muslim League Other parties Independents Europeans Total
Assam     10 (Non-Congress) 2 3 21
      6 (Muslim Party)      
Bengal 9 7 9 (Krishak Praja Party) 32 6 63
Bihar 8   2 (United) 16 3 29
Bombay 13 2 2 (Democratic Swaraj) 9 4 30
Madras 26 3 5 (Justice Party) 12 8 54
United Provinces 8   4 (National Agriculturists) 40 8 60
Total 64 12 38 111 32 257

 

Madras Presidency

In Madras, the Congress won 74% of all seats, eclipsing the incumbent Justice Party (21 seats).

Sind:

The Sind Legislative Assembly had 60 members. The Sind United Party emerged the leader with 22 seats, and the Congress secured 8 seats. Mohammad Ali Jinnah had tried to set up a League Parliamentary Board in Sindh in 1936, but he failed, though 72% of the population was Muslim.  Though 34 seats were reserved for Muslims, the Muslim League could secure none of them.

United Provinces

The UP legislature consisted of a Legislative Council of 52 elected and 6 or 8 nominated members and a Legislative Assembly of 228 elected members: some from exclusive Muslim constituencies, some from "General" constituencies, and some "Special" constituencies. The Congress won a clear majority in the United Provinces, with 133 seats, while the Muslim League won only 27 out of the 64 seats reserved for Muslims.

Assam

In Assam, the Congress won 33 seats out of a total of 108 making it the single largest party, though it was not in a position to form a ministry. The Governor called upon Sir Muhammad Abdulla, ex-Judicial Member of Assam and Leader of the Assam Valley Muslim Party to form the Ministry. The Congress was a part of the ruling coalition.

Bombay

In Bombay, the Congress fell just short of gaining half the seats. However, it was able to draw on the support of some small pro-Congress groups to form a working majority. B.G. Kher became the first Chief Minister of Bombay.

Other provinces:

In three additional provinces, Central Provinces, Bihar, and Orissa, the Congress won clear majorities. In the overwhelmingly Muslim North-West Frontier Province, Congress won 19 out of 50 seats and was able, with minor party support, to form a ministry.

The Unionist Party under Sikander Hyat Khan formed the government in Punjab with 67 out of 175 seats. The Congress won 18 seats and the Akali Dal, 10 .In Bengal, though the Congress was the largest party (with 54 seats), The Krishak Praja Party of A. K. Fazlul Huq (with 36 seats) was able to form a coalition government

Muslim League

The election results were a blow to the League. After the election, Muhammad Ali Jinnah of the League offered to form coalitions with the Congress. The League insisted that the Congress should not nominate any Muslims to the ministries, as it (the League) claimed to be the exclusive representative of Indian Muslims. This was not acceptable to the Congress, and it declined the League's offer.

Resignation of Congress Ministries:

Viceroy Linlithgow declared India at war with Germany on 3 September 1939. The Congress objected strongly to the declaration of war without prior consultation with Indians. The Congress Working Committee suggested that it would cooperate if there were a central Indian national government formed, and a commitment made to India's independence after the war. The Muslim League promised its support to the British, with Jinnah calling on Muslims to help the Raj by "honourable co-operation" at the "critical and difficult juncture," while asking the Viceroy for increased protection for Muslims

Linlithgow refused the demands of the Congress. On 22 October 1939, it "calls[ed] upon all Congress ministries to tender their resignations." Both Viceroy Linlithgow and Muhammad Ali Jinnah were pleased with the resignations. On 2 December 1939, Jinnah put out an appeal, calling for Indian Muslims to celebrate 22 December 1939 as a "Day of Deliverance" from Congress Mr. Jinnah announced that ‘I wish the Musalmans all over India to observe Friday 22 December as the "Day of Deliverance" and thanksgiving as a mark of relief that the Congress regime has at last ceased to function. I hope that the provincial, district and primary Muslim Leagues all over India will hold public meetings and pass the resolution with such modification as they may be advised, and after Jumma prayers offer prayers by way of thanksgiving for being delivered from the unjust Congress regime.

 

Legislative Assemblies :   1946  
Province Congress Muslim League Other parties Independents Total
Assam 58 31 Europeans 9 7 108
      Others 3    
Bengal 86 113 Europeans 25 14 250
      Others 12    
Bihar 98 34 8 12 152
Bombay 125 30 2 18 175
Central Provinces 92 13   7 112
Madras 163 28 Communist Party 2 22 215
North West Frontier Province 30 17 2 1 50
Orissa 47 4   9 60
Punjab 51 73 Akalis 22 9 175
      Unionist Party 20    
Sind 18 27 10 4 60
United Provinces 153 54 7 14 228
Total 923 425 123 114 1585
           
(  Source : Wikipedia )           

The relevance of the pre-independence data:

The pre-independence electoral statistical data is produced to indicate the way in which the British imperial power had been carefully organising the political affairs in India aiming at instituting a federal structure in the empire invoking parliamentary seeds in the society. Except that the sovereignty lay in Her Majesty’s Government of United Kingdom, the Government was educating the native society in the lessons of responsible, if not accountable, governance. The  exercise  was primarily  to  appear to be law  conscious and  subjecting itself  to a sort  of  rule  orientation. Moreover , the political intention of  holding these elections was to keep the elite class  in  imperial  India  busy  and  make  them feel  and  experience  a  sense  of  participation and  involvement in the decision-making process. The imperial power took care to keep the British subjects satisfied at a minimum level and tried not to give any excuse to revolt against the Administration.

Further,  it  can  be noted that the mushroom growth of  smaller parties meddling in national  affairs  without any  substantial popular  mandate ,  laid  a sort  of  foundation of  split resolves in the electoral process encouraging egoistic  and individual-centered politics.

British Experience --The May 2015 UK elections:  Report:

In the United Kingdom since 1945, there were 19 General Elections to the Parliament, held until May 2015.

However, in UK General Elections are not held simultaneously for various bodies. The Commission does not have a constitution; the Commission does not fund parties standing in elections. (Source: According to a communication from the Electoral Commission, London, UK).

The electorate for local government elections in England was 31.5 million and approximately 20 million votes were cast.

Consistent with previous elections, turnout among postal voters at the UK Parliamentary elections was higher than among those who voted at polling stations: 86.0% of people who were sent a postal ballot pack voted, compared with 63.5% of those who were entitled to vote at a polling station.

Postal votes were issued to around 7.6 million electors and 6.2 million postal votes were included in the count. Across England, Scotland and Wales, the proportion of electors who chose to vote by post was 16.9%. In comparison, 1.4% of the electorate was issued with a postal vote in Northern Ireland, where postal voting is not available on demand. 

The Recommendations made by the UK Election Commission are very important in this regard and therefore need careful perusal. Of course, it must be taken into account that the size and quantum of the electoral exercise in U K are far smaller than what it is in India. 

The May 2015 UK elections Report on the administration of the 7 May 2015 elections, including the UK Parliamentary general election July 2015:

Summary of key British facts and recommendations: Key facts about the UK elections. 

On 7 May 2015 elections were held for the 650 members of the United Kingdom Parliament and for local councilors in all 36 metropolitan boroughs, 194 district authorities and 49 unitary authorities in England.

There were also elections for Mayors in six English local authorities, a council tax referendum in Bedfordshire, and neighborhood planning referendums in Central Milton Keynes, Malpas & Overton (Cheshire West & Chester) and Wirksworth (Derbyshire Dales).

 It was also the first time that parish council elections were combined with a UK Parliamentary general election. In almost 280 local authority areas in England, the poll for the UK Parliamentary election was combined with other polls. Of these, 239 local authorities held three or more types of election (including UKPGE, local election, parish council election, referendum or mayoral election) with one authority (Bedford) holding five polls on 7 May.

There were no large-scale combined polls in Northern Ireland, Scotland, or Wales, although some local government ward by-elections were held.

The above reference in a bit details is given to highlight the manner in which the Report is submitted to the UK Government. Precise and concise.

   

Andhra Pradesh

2014 2009 2004 1999 1994 1989 1985 1983 1978 1972 1967 1962 1957 1955

Arunachal Pradesh

2014 2009 2004 1999 1995 1990 1984 1980 1978

Assam

2016 2011 2006 2001 1996 1991 1985 1983 1978 1972 1967 1962 1957 1951

Bihar

2015 2010 Oct 2005 Feb2005 2000 1995 1990 1985 1980 1977 1972 1969 1967 1962 1957 1951

Chhattisgarh

2013  2008   2003

Delhi

2015  2013  2008 2003 1998 1993 1983 1977 1972 1951

Goa

2012 2007 2002 1999 1994 1989 1984 1980 1977 1972 1967

Gujarat

2012 2007 2002 1998 1995 1990 1985 1980 1975 1972 1967 1962

Haryana

2014 2009 2005 2000 1996 1991 1987 1982 1977 1972 1968 1967

Himachal Pradesh

2012 2007 2003 1998 1993 1990 1985 1982 1977 1972 1967 1951

Jammu & Kashmir

2014 2008 2002 1996 1987 1983. 1977 1972 1967 1962

Jharkhand

2014 2009 2005

Karnataka

2013 2008 2004 1999 1994 1989 1985 1983 1978 1972 1967 1962 1957

Kerala

2016 2011 2006 2001 1996 1991 1987 1982 1980 1977 1970 1967 1965 1960 1957

Madhya Pradesh

2013  2008 2003 1998 1993 1990 1985 1980 1977 1972 1967 1962 1957 1951

Maharashtra

2014  2009 2004 1999 1995 1990 1985 1980 1978 1972 1967 1962

Manipur

2012 2007 2002 2000 1995 1990 1984 1980 1974 1972 1967

Meghalaya

2013  2008 2003 1998 1993 1988 1983 1978 1972

Mizoram

2013 2008 2003 1998 1993 1989 1987 1984 1979 1978 1972

Nagaland

2013 2008 2003 1998 1993 1989 1987 1982 1977 1974 1969 1964

Orissa

2014 2009 2004 2000 1995 1990 1985 1980 1977 1974 1971 1967 1961 1957 1951

Punjab

2012 2007 2002 1997 1992 1985 1980 1977 1972 1969 1967 1962 1957 1951

Pondicherry

2016 2011 2006 2001 1996 1991 1990 1985 1980 1977 1974 1969 1964

Rajasthan

2013  2008 2003 1998 1993 1990 1985 1980 1977 1972 1967 1962 1957 1951

Sikkim

2014 2009 2004 1999 1994 1989 1985 1979

Tamil Nadu

2016 2011 2006 2001 1996 1991 1989 1984 1980 1977 1971 1967

Tripura

2013  2008 2003 1998 1993 1988 1983 1977 1972 1967

Uttar Pradesh

2012 2007 2002 1996 1993 1991 1989 1985 1980 1977 1974 1969 1967 1962 1957 1951

Uttarakhand

2012 2007 2002

West Bengal

2016 2011 2006 20011996 1991 1987 1982 1977 1972 1971 1969 1967 1962 1957 1951

 

Statistical Reports of General Elections  of State Assemblies which are no longer in existence after reorganization  of States.

STATES

YEARS

Ajmer

1951

Bhopal

1951

Bombay

1957 1951

Coorg

1951

Hyderabad

1951

Madhya Bharat

1951

Madras

1967 1962 1957 1951

Mysore

1967 1951

Patiala & East Punjab States Union

1954 1951

Sourastra

1951

Travancore Cochin

1954 1951

Vindhya Pradesh

1951

The rationale of holding all elections in India simultaneously:

 It is interesting to note that in the name of  and to maintain the federal democratic structure of India , the electoral affairs has been an interesting feature  in India  even  before independence , i.e. during British imperial rule as  well as  after independence. It appeared as if the entire country was fully engaged in thinking about only ‘one’ hobby, i.e. elections. Thinking about elections , electioneering , mobilising funds required for the elections , mindless efforts in securing party nominations , all efforts culminating in disturbing and destroying  social harmony and peace  creating  mutual  enmity   at  the cost of mental tranquility of the individual and the society.

Several decades ago , former Indian Defense Minister and former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, late Y B  Chavan   while  substantiating  imposition of ‘ ill-famous  emergency ‘  in  1975  , had  stated that ‘elections alone  was  no criterion of  democracy ‘ . He was to a great extent correct .That is a   partial truth.  Is democracy a myth?  Yes, to a certain extent it is a myth. In India, this notion is mystified by several diseases.

 First – tendency of exaggeration ,second-- mutual  distrust , third --  suspicious about everything around , fourth- ambitious , fifth—in satiated  lust  for power , sixth—false concepts about oneself, seventh-- tendency of disrespecting rules and regulations , eighth—essentially a timid nature , ninth—self-centered attitude , tenth--- pervert media prone  shallow individuals  making false claims of  excellence or achievement  without achieving anything concrete.

 In no   way,  I am trying to depict  a  ‘bad man-animal-like ‘  character  of  an   Indian citizen, all that  I am trying is  to   point out  the extent  to  which  an Indian citizen can reach  like  any other human  being anywhere in the world . The foregoing is truer about an Indian.

When we take a review of the preceding six decades, the latter half of the past will be witnessed as the busiest period for the ‘voter’- engrossed with making unmindful choices   in choosing his ruler.

The device seems to be more important than the goal:    Election is an instrument and the   goal is ‘development’.  The instrument is required to be used to bring about development and growth of the individual as well as the society. All efforts of the Government and the society are required to be aimed at bringing about development. However, that does not seem to happen. The society and the individual –both are alarmingly busy with participating in the electoral activity.

The  foregoing review of  the history  of  legislative elections during the imperial period and the post-independence   period would  throw light on the quick succession  of several elections in India  which  had  kept  Indians  well occupied with political  affairs  as  if addicted  to   electoral  inebriated  pleasure. Late  Pt.Deen Dayal  Upadhya ya   had  forcefully  argued  that ‘Indian society ‘ ( and the nation)  is   culture-centric  and  not politics-centered ‘ . The Macaulay-a colonial rulers were engaged in uprooting and destroying this foundation. Sufficient damage has been done.   In  other words , the colonial rule did  happen in  a  way which systematically twisted and devastated  individual’s daily routine which  included dress-code , faith , beliefs , customs , family matters , ideas of life and destination thereof , interactions with others around, legal  framework , and several other aspects.  The  Macaulay an  education system  essentially aimed at  imbibing upon the minds  of the English-educated  Indians  that  India  had a despicable , primitive and outdated  past , therefore  only modern English  dependent  education  would  guide  them  to  new  and  modern  social  and  political  life.  Of course, one has to remember that everything English   may not be as bad as made out to be by some anti-British or anti-Western souls.  The attack is against its anti-Indian political fallout. As  an  Indian, it is the bounden  duty  of  every Indian  to defend and  if possible to  promote everything   that is  best  in   Indian  instead of  being  against  whatever  is  in the  West. There is no contradiction in the above statement. It is certainly a pragmatic attitude. We the Indians are required to explore ourselves seriously, honestly and rationally.

Positive  dimensions  of  holding  simultaneous   elections  to  both  Lok Sabha and  all State  Legislative Assemblies :

The matter was discussed by the Standing Committee of Parliament which deliberated on the “feasibility of holding simultaneous elections to the House of people (Lok Sabha) and State Legislative Assemblies” and submitted a report on 17 December 2015.

The Committee made the following recommendations:

 “Holding of Elections in Two Phases: The Committee recommended that elections could be held in two phases. It stated that elections to some Legislative Assemblies could be held during the mid-term of Lok Sabha. Elections to the remaining Legislative assemblies could be held with the end of Lok Sabah’s term.”

(Source: Committee Report)

General   elections to the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies were held together i.e. simultaneously until 1967. It was only afterwards, the Union legislature i.e. Lok Sabha was dissolved (in 1971) as a result of a political conflict, and a mid-term election had to be held. However, the elections to the State Legislative Assemblies were held   in accordance with its quinquennial   cycle. Therefore ,  a  well set  national  cycle  was  disturbed, further,  the ill-famous emergency    was  imposed   in  1975 all over the Indian State . The  end  of the disturbed  period  in  1977 once  again broke the  cycle at  the Union  as  well as the federating  unit  level  in  1980. Thenceforth , elections  to the two  different levels  have  since  been   held periodically in accordance with  the new time table  except for  a  couple  of  times. Similarly , a number of  State Legislative Assemblies were dissolved  mid-way  which  forced  mid-term elections  to these legislatures  at  different  times  producing  new  cycles  of  legislature elections.  It  looked  like there was  no  sufficient  time  left  for any  development  programmes  or  growth  projects.  Almost  every  two  years  there were  elections  and   therefore  the national  and  the regional  political  parties , small time  political party  leaders at the regional and local grass-root levels , lobbies  and  pressure  groups  associated  with big and  small financial  typhoons   all of them naturally  focused  their attentions  and  energies  on the elections  which  decided  their future. Expenditure is no issue. General elections, whether to be held simultaneously or separately, are bound to incur inescapable huge expenditure. Deployment of manpower to administer   these elections is also bound to be on a large scale.  Question is  , how  many  times  such a deployment  is  required to be  made between  two  General elections ?  Simultaneously  held  elections  are not  merely   going  to  reduce to a certain extent  expenditure ,if  any , but  far  more than that , it is going to  save  the  criminal  wastage  of  time in  the  name  of  parliamentary  democracy , lost in electoral  squabbles .False  promises , unrealistic plans , defections  between  various parties , intrigues  and  deceptions ,allurement ,  enticement , intimidation  and  appeals  all such  techniques  were and  are  used  in  all these  elections .Theatrical  projections    were  performed  by  the  participants in the electoral  ‘plays’  misleading  the voters.

Change  solicited  to clear  confusion-prone  and  indecisive   psyche :  The  entire  psyche  of  the electors in the electoral   engrossing process  is  required  to be changed in order to free the citizens’ mindset.   As  at  present, the mindset  of  the  participants  in  the  electoral  process  is   prone to ‘electioneering  and  attaining  political power  oriented  leadership’. The  federal  character  of the Indian  State , the above  cited several  statistical tables , the  leadership  exemplified  through it , have  given  rise to  the emergence  of  smaller  parties and small time leaders  setting  in  advance a  trail  of  such a  tradition of local leadership .Of course , the pre-independence  national  leadership  used this  opportunity  to  educate  and  mobilise public opinion and  aimed   it at the goal  of political freedom. It worked, but later it turned out to be a boomerang.  The federal structure proved to be a fostering ground for split verdict in the electoral process. 

The election is a process of united   all-inclusive decision-making the exercise of the electors   to decide their masters.  The mandate produced therein has to be a concerted effort.  There is  a school  of  thought which  believes that elections  when  held  to the Union legislature , State legislature,  District  agency , Taluka  and the  grass root  village  level  agency  perhaps  makes  such a mandate  more  effective if it   is  made with  a common  political thread .  The case of  the  Indian National Congress  , when  it commanded political  authority   both   at the Indian Union  level  and  the  federating unit levels  simultaneously  together ,  development  and  growth  were  brought about in the country , the  case   belongs to the above-mentioned  school  of  thought.

This is  not  a  political  party  interest , it is  essentially a consideration  of a national  dimension. Whether  INC is  at the Center  or  BJP , expenditure  on the  administration of  legislative elections  is  bound  to be as usual  and  therefore  holding  elections  happens  to be a  national  common cause  and  cannot  be any  party  affair.

Excessive  politicisation of the electoral  polity :  The  electoral  process in India at  the  ground level  is  marred  by the  features  as described  above  and  this  has  been  so since the pre-independence  period. In  north India  after independence  , (  even today  in some  cases  ) several  elections  were  severely   rigged , such  as  booth capturing , bogus voting , terrorising  voters etc.  were common  matters. It  was only  after the emergence  of  Shri T N Sheehan , formerly  Chief  Election  Commissioner  (  1990 to  1996 ) who  successfully   exerted  his  constitutional  authority  and  tightened the screws of  several  lapses  ,  procedures and  regulated the  elections at  all levels in  the  country . He stood firmly by the ordinary voter in the country and paved the way for free and fair elections in the country. It  was  T N Sheehan , who  started  the era  of depoliticisation of  political  process  by  exerting  Election Commission’s  constitutional  authority  in streamlining  the administration of  the political  parties  from within  such  as  requiring  registration of  parties  mandatory , maintaining  their  annual  accounts , election  campaign  expenditures by  both  the parties  and  their  candidates  ,  its  submission to the Election  Commission  within a stipulated  period .  These  measures  restricted  the lawlessness  in the  behavioral  pattern  of  the  parties  and  their   reckless  big  and  small time  leaders. The rise of regional satraps is too worrisome.

It  remains to  be  seen  whether  or  not  the  ambit  of the  Constitutional  power  of  the  Election Commission  covers  its  decision-making  authority  on  the  periodicity  of the  General  Elections  of  the Union  legislature  and  the State Legislative Assemblies . Can  the Election  Commission decide  to  hold  elections  simultaneously  to the Union and  the State  Legislative  Assemblies  ?  Can  the  Election  Commission  decide  upon  the  task  of  electoral  reforms  ?

“The poll panel, however, has flagged several logistical and financial challenges that have to be overcome before it can prepare to hold state and central elections together.

For starters, the government will have to amend the Constitution to either curtail or extend the term of some of the state Assemblies to enable the EC to draw up a common poll schedule.

Secondly, such an exercise will require the large-scale purchase of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines. According to the Commission, it would need Rs 9,284.15 crore to procure the additional EVMs and VVPATs. Moreover, the machines will have to be replaced every 15 years which would again entail more expenditure.

The EC will also need more central armed forces personnel for deployment at separate polling booths meant for Lok Sabha and state assembly elections.”

(Source: Ritika Chopra, New Delhi: Indian Express)

Electoral Reforms:

Prime  Minister  Narendra   Modi has   recently    aired  his  views  on  bringing about  electoral  reforms  in  India  in order to  strengthen  parliamentary  democracy. This task is as important as the goal of economic development. Contemplating electoral reforms requires several measures to be considered   first, esp. the process of depoliticisation.

The  exercise of   the  elections  during  the British  imperial  period  (refer  the  above-mentioned  data)  has  done  good  as well as quite a few   undesirable things  and the  undesirable elements  need  to  be  weeded  out  in the  interest of the  Indian  society. 

Election Commission of India can be a catalytic agent in bringing about such reforms. India needs another T N Sheshan!

Depoliticisation of the society is the first measure warranted.

Remember Modi mantra- ‘nation first’?