The Election Commission has ruled out simultaneous elections to the State assemblies and the Lok Sabha. Speaking with the media the other day, Chief Election Commissioner, O P Rawat, said without a legal framework, simultaneous polls cannot be held. Though the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP chief Amit Shah have often talked of ‘one nation, one election’, without an enabling constitutional amendment, this cannot be done. In other words, the Lok Sabha elections are likely to be held between April-May next year, while elections to assemblies in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram are to be held later in the year.
One big advantage of simultaneous polls is the savings in cost and time. A bigger advantage is the freedom enjoyed by central and state governments to carry on the work of administration without being hamstrung by the looming elections in one place or the other and the consequent constraints of the model code of conduct which enjoins on the states going to the polls to cease all policy decisions. Meanwhile, one State keen to avoid simultaneous elections is Telangana. Although the five-year term of the current assembly is due to end in April-May next year, the leader of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi and Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao wants to advance the poll by a few months. Ideally, he would like the assembly poll to be held along with those to the assemblies in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, etc. Rao gave ample indication of his plan to go for an early poll at a party rally in Hyderabad last Sunday. He maintained that though no decision had been taken, it would be good if the elections were advanced since the people wanted him to rule the State for yet another term. He reeled off the names of various schemes and programmes his government had implemented in the last four years and promised to do better in his second term.
But what he did not disclose was the real motive behind the move to curtail the life of the current assembly by at least six months. It lay in his fear that a simultaneous poll to the assembly along with the Lok Sabha would shift the focus to the national election, and thus, deny the advantage he enjoys as a regional party. His efforts to constitute a federal front proved a non-starter owing to his insistence to keep the Congress Party out of such a front since the latter is his main challenger in Telangana. He cannot openly team up with the BJP-led NDA for fear of alienating the large percentage of the Muslim vote in the state. The TRS is confident that it can retain power without an alliance if the elections to the assembly are held ahead of the parliamentary polls. Also, once the assembly election is behind him, his freedom to choose his partner at the Centre would expand considerably without the fear of loss of the Muslim vote. After he has sewn up another five-year term as chief minister, he will feel free to cooperate closely with the NDA before or after the Lok Sabha polls.