President Ram Nath Kovind called for a “sustained debate” on holding simultaneous polls for the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies. In his maiden address to the joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament at the beginning of the Budget session on Monday, he said all parties need to arrive at a consensus over the issue.
His remarks came days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a fresh pitch for holding the polls together.
“Frequent elections not only impose a huge burden on human resources but also impede the development process due to the promulgation of the model code of conduct,” the President said.
The president also said a “sustained debate” was required on the subject of simultaneous elections and “all political parties need to arrive at a consensus on this issue”.
Earlier, Modi had said that like festivals, elections should be held on fixed dates so that governments can function for five years. He had also said that barbs exchanged during campaigning in one state have a bearing in other parts of the country which are not going to polls.
Modi was of the view that once the elections are held together, the central and the state governments can devote the next five years to governance which otherwise suffers due to frequent polls.
Meanwhile, a word of caution came from the newly-appointed chief election commissioner OP Rawat, who said the legal framework required to hold the two elections together will take a “lot of time” to get ready.
He had also said he would be the wrong person to respond to whether simultaneous polls could be held in 2019.
“We cannot put the cart before the horse. Logistical issues are subservient to legal framework. Unless legal framework is in place, we don’t have to talk about anything else because legal framework will take lot of time – making constitutional amendment to (changing) the law — all the process will take time,” he had said.
In 2016, the Election Commission (EC) had told the government that it supports the proposal of simultaneous polls but cost involved will be to the tune of over Rs 9,000 crore.
The EC has told the government as well as a parliamentary committee that simultaneous conduct of elections would require large-scale purchase of Electronic Voting Machines and paper trail machines.
The government feels that while one-time cost in holding simultaneous polls would be high, but the exercise may bring down expenditure involved in election arrangements such as deployment of central forces and polling personnel.
(With inputs from PTI)