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One nation, one election: A ploy by Modi to come back to power in the centre

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(This article was first published in July 2018)

The first thing that must be understood about the move to have simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the state Assemblies is that it is aimed at establishing single party rule throughout the country, including in the States.

Much as the BJP is trying to create hype about one poll, and trying to give credit to Narendra Modi for having thought of it, the fact is that it is not Modi’s idea at all. The Election Commission first suggested simultaneous polls in 1982 itself, and this was subsequently reiterated in the 1999 report of The Law Commission of India in its One Hundred Seventieth Report on Reform of Electoral Laws.

Simultaneous poll has also been recommended by various parties seeking electoral reforms as a package. What Modi has done is to take just one aspect of a big package of electoral reforms to suit him and his party in a bid to stay on in power after the 2019 elections to the Lok Sabha.

What is it that the BJP hopes to gain by this move?

In general, national parties like the BJP and the Congress may poll nearly 5 per cent more votes in the Assembly polls when held along with Lok Sabha polls. Any positive vote in favour of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi or Vajpayee for the LS poll had tended to rub off to some extent in the choice for the State Assemblies as well, past experience has shown.

Crucial for the BJP and even for Modi is the political situation in key states like Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan where BJP has lost every by-election in the last one year, indicating a strong anti-incumbency trend which could propel the Congress to power in these two States. The elections in these two states are scheduled for January 2019, ahead of the Lok Sabha election due in April/May 2019. Modi’s worry is that a BJP defeat in these two states (conversely a victory for the Congress here) could create a feeling across the country that there is no Modi wave in the country. Worse, it could also stimulate an anti-incumbency factor against the BJP in the country, that the BJP is a sinking ship, and potential allies could desert the NDA.

Already, parties are veering towards a third front. The gain of a party in the third front means the loss of an ally for the BJP. So, it would be a double loss for the NDA.

The BJP doesn’t want an adverse verdict in any state in the run up to the Lok Sabha polls. It would rather have the Assembly elections in MP and Rajasthan, and hope that the BJP image for Lok Sabha would be better than that of its state governments in these two states.

Some parties have suggested that simultaneous polls are not possible immediately or in the near future. There could be grouping of elections, by extending the term of some Assemblies and curtailing the term of some others, if parties agree.

Simultaneous Election can be held on 03.06.2019 for 13 States with LS poll:

Sl. No. State Assembly        Tenure Ending on      Days to be Extended (+)/ Curtailed (–)

1           Mizoram                     15-Dec-18                                    170

2         Chhattisgarh                  5-Jan-19                                     149

3      Madhya Pradesh              7-Jan-19                                      147

4          Rajasthan                    20-Jan-19                                     134

5       Andhra Pradesh             14-Jun-19                                       11

6          Telangana                    8-Jun-19                                         5

7            Sikkim                       27-May-19                                       7

8           Odisha                      11-Jun-19                                          8

9          Haryana                      2-Nov-19                                        152

10       Maharashtra                9-Nov-19                                         159

11         Jharkhand                  5-Jan-20                                         216

12      Arunachal Pradesh       1-Jun-19                                         243

13             Delhi                         Feb-20                                          271

Elections for states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Jharkhand and Delhi can be held together in mid-2019 with the Lok Sabha elections if there is consensus among the parties concerned. It is doubtful if the Delhi government of AAP will be ready to curtail its term by nearly 300 days to suit the Modi plan. The TRS leader Chandrasekhara Rao has conveyed that the Telangana election could be held with the LS poll. BJP-ruled States like MP, Rajasthan, Haryana, and Odisha could have simultaenous polls. However, there are severe legal problems to be overcome. More on the legal issues in the second part.

(Read the second part here)

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