top of page

The pros and cons of simultaneous elections | Explained

What are the various benefits of holding Lok Sabha and State elections at the same time? How would simultaneous elections go against the federal character of the Constitution? What are international practices on the same in other Parliamentary democracies?

A High-Level Committee (HLC) headed by Ramnath Kovind, former President of India, was constituted in September 2023 to examine the issue of holding simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha, State Legislative Assemblies and local bodies of all States. The HLC has invited responses from political parties, the Law Commission and other groups on the proposal to hold simultaneous elections.

What is the background?

During the first four general election cycles in 1952, 1957, 1962 and 1967, the elections to the Lok Sabha and State legislative assemblies were held simultaneously. However, due to the subsequent premature dissolution of the Lok Sabha on seven occasions and the premature dissolution of legislative assemblies on various occasions, the elections to the Lok Sabha and various State assemblies are held at different times. In 2019, only four States had their assembly elections, along with the Lok Sabha. The idea of simultaneous elections has been mooted in the past by the Election Commission of India (1982) and the Law Commission (1999).

What is the case for simultaneous elections?

The desirability of simultaneous elections can be discussed from the perspectives of cost, governance, administrative convenience and social cohesion. Firstly, it is estimated that the cost of holding general elections to the Lok Sabha is around ₹4,000 crore for the Central government. Each State assembly election would also cost considerable amount of money according to the size of the State. While this is the official expenditure of the government, the expenditure by parties and candidates are manifold times higher. Simultaneous elections would entail a reduction in these costs.

Secondly, there are at least 5-6 State elections that happen every year. This results in political parties, including Ministers, being in ‘permanent campaign’ mode, which acts as a hindrance to policy making and governance. Further, the Model Code of Conduct that is enforced during the election process ranges usually from 45-60 days where no new schemes or projects can be announced by the Centre and concerned State governments.

Third, administrative machinery in the districts slow down during the election period with the primary focus being the conduct of elections. There are also paramilitary forces that are withdrawn from the locations in which they are posted and deployed to the concerned State for the smooth conduct of elections. Frequent elections every year have an impact on administrative efficiency.

Lastly but very importantly, high-stake elections each year in various States result in polarising campaigns by all parties in order to win the elections. This trend has exacerbated in the last decade with the advent of social media thereby creating and deepening the fissures in our multi-religious and multilingual country.

What are the challenges involved?

There are tangible benefits that accrue due to simultaneous elections. However, there are also significant issues that surround such a proposal both from democratic and constitutional perspectives.

India is a federal country of sub-continental proportions. Various States have their own unique set of issues that are significantly different from one another. The Union and State governments have their respective powers and responsibilities towards the electorate as per the division of powers under the Constitution. Conducting elections simultaneously to the Lok Sabha and all State assemblies would result in national issues overshadowing regional and State specific issues. National political parties would have a significant advantage over regional parties on account of this mechanism. This would be detrimental to the federal spirit of our country which has been declared as a basic structure of the Constitution. Elections also serve as an effective feedback mechanism for governments in power. There have been many policies that have been initiated by various Central and State governments in the past due to such electoral feedback. If elections are held only once in five years, it can affect this process.

Apart from the federal and democratic issues discussed above, simultaneous polls will also require constitutional amendments. India is a parliamentary democracy where the governments at the Centre and the State need to enjoy majority in the Lok Sabha and the Legislative Assembly respectively. The duration of these houses is five years but it may be dissolved earlier if the party or coalition in power loses majority, and no alternative government can be formed. It may also be dissolved prematurely by the council of ministers in power to seek an early election. Further, State legislative assemblies can also be dissolved by imposing President’s rule under Article 356 of the Constitution. Having a fixed tenure of five years for the Lok Sabha and State assemblies will therefore require constitutional amendments to Articles 83, 85, 172 and 174 that deal with the duration and dissolution of Lok Sabha and Legislative assemblies. It will also require the amendment of Article 356.

What are the various recommendations?

The reports of the Law Commission (1999), and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice (2015), have dealt with the issue of simultaneous elections. The Law Commission had also submitted a draft report in 2018. The highlights of these discussions and recommendations can be summarised as follows — (a) the elections to the Lok Sabha and nearly half of the State assemblies may be clubbed together in one cycle, while the rest of the State assembly elections can be held in another cycle after two and half years. This will require curtailing or extending the tenures of existing assemblies that will entail amendments to the Constitution and the Representation of the People Act, 1951; (b) any ‘no-confidence motion’ in the Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly should be mandatorily accompanied by a ‘confidence motion’ for the formation of an alternate government. If for any unavoidable reason, the Lok Sabha or State Assembly is to be dissolved prematurely, the duration of the newly constituted House should be only for the remainder period of the original House. This would act as a deterrent for MPs and MLAs pushing for premature dissolution of the House. It would instead encourage the members to explore the possibility of forming an alternate government through feasible realignments; (c) the bye-elections necessitated by death, resignation or disqualification of members can be clubbed together and conducted once in a year.

It may be noted that Parliamentary democracies like South Africa, Sweden and Germany have fixed tenures for their legislatures. The elections to the National Assembly and provincial legislatures happen simultaneously in South Africa every five years, with the President of the country being elected by the National Assembly. The Prime Minister of Sweden and the Chancellor of Germany are elected by their respective legislatures every four years. A lack of confidence against the German Chancellor can be moved only by electing a successor.

What can be an ideal solution?

There is a lack of consensus among various political parties about the conduct of simultaneous elections. The ideal middle ground may be to conduct the Lok Sabha election in one cycle and all State assembly elections in another cycle after two and a half years. The rest of the recommendations as discussed in the previous section with respect to the formation of an alternative government in case of the fall of an incumbent government, the duration of the newly constituted houses being only for the remainder period in case of premature dissolution and, the clubbing of bye-elections to be held once every year may be adopted through suitable amendments. This will ensure that the major benefits of simultaneous polls are achieved without compromising on democratic and federal principles. If all political parties are taken into confidence, this may be achieved over the next decade and continued thereafter.

Rangarajan. R is a former IAS officer and author of ‘Polity Simplified’. He currently trains civil-service aspirants at ‘Officers IAS Academy’. Views expressed are personal.

  • During the first four general election cycles in 1952, 1957, 1962 and 1967, the elections to the Lok Sabha and State legislative assemblies were held simultaneously.

  • There are tangible benefits that accrue due to simultaneous elections.

  • The reports of the Law Commission (1999), and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice (2015), have dealt with the issue of simultaneous elections.

21 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Dharavi revamp in turmoil | Explained

The Dharavi Redevelopment Project, an initiative to rebuild Asia’s largest slum, has sparked heated controversies and political clashes, primarily due to allegations of favouritism towards the Adani G


  • call
  • gmail-02
  • Blogger
  • Whatsapp
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
bottom of page