By Prarthana Mitra
Following speculation over the possibility of combined Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, Election Commission on Wednesday announced that it isn’t averse to the idea Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat said on Wednesday said the EC was capable of holding Lok Sabha and polls to four state assemblies this December.
Asked about the EC’s preparedness, Rawat told PTI, “Why not. There would not be any problem,” indicating a strong possibility of simultaneous polls in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Rajasthan. This brings all speculation to head, regarding the preponement of all elections scheduled for April-May 2019 to November-December 2018.
BJP has been wanting the Lok Sabha polls to coincide with the elections across 11 states including Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Telangana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Mizoram and Bihar. With most of the states going to poll next still in BJP’s stronghold, the opposition and rival parties are against the idea of merging state elections with Lok Sabha polls.
BJP President Amit Shah has already written to Law Commission on Monday, expressing his party’s favourable views on the common polling dates. But opposition parties like Congress and Trinamool Congress are vehemently against the idea, calling this attempt to alter the Constitutional procedure “politically motivated.”
The ruling party believes it will end the constant cycle of state polls and cut down election expenditure by a considerable extent. Party spokespersons also claim that the simultaneous conduction wouldn’t necessarily bend Constitutional rules if all state governments and political parties are on board with the idea.
A recent CVoter survey, however, suggested that the Congress is set to win in Rajasthan, Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh but with simultaneous elections, the result may be different. This blatant attempt to tamper the relation between a voter and their representative could prove to be a blow to democracy and federalism.
Feasibility and preparedness
On the subject of making electronic voting machines (EVMs) and paper trail machines available for Lok Sabha polls as early as December (along with those of four assemblies), the CEC said all the required EVMs would be in place by September end, 16 lakh voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines would come by November and the remaining 1.5 lakh will be available before December begins.
According to FirstPost, while the EC needs EVMs and VVPATs for 10 lakh polling stations for the LS polls, it needs the two devices for two lakh polling stations in four states where Assembly elections would be due in December-January.
“There would be a little constraint on the reserves. Instead of 135 per cent (reserves), will have to go for 130 per cent, if the situation arises,” Rawat said about VVPATs.
To address demands for matching EVM and VVPAT results in every polling booth, Rawat said the Technical Experts Committee is currently analysing the technology stabilisation issues and incorporating essential design upgrades so that “we don’t face the problems later.”
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.