Simultaneous elections for State Assemblies and Parliament can have a tangible, and perhaps undesirable, impact on voter behaviour.
‘The permanent campaign’ was a phrase coined and popularised by Sidney Blumenthal, adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton, in his 1980 book that lamented the culture of election campaigns crowding out time for policymaking. Prime Minister Narendra Modi agrees with Mr. Blumenthal. He recently bemoaned the incessant demands of electioneering for various State elections leaving little time for governance. He called for reforming India’s electoral cycle to hold simultaneous elections to State Legislatures and Parliament, ostensibly to break out of this ‘permanent campaign’ syndrome.
In India’s own version of the ‘permanent campaign’, in the last 30 years, there has not been a single year in which there has been no election either to a State Assembly or to Parliament. In 1967, 22 States held elections along with the Parliament elections. That number dwindled to four by 2014. Efficiency arguments of costs and resources aside, the intangible impact of this perpetual election mode on the legislative and executive abilities of the Central government is perhaps far more onerous to the nation than mere exchequer losses. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s manifesto for the 2014 national elections had also mooted this idea. This reform seems to have won support across the political spectrum, including regional parties, save for the Trinamool Congress. The benefits of simultaneous elections aside, it is also important to ask the question — will holding simultaneous elections to the State Legislature and the Lok Sabha impact voter behaviour, and hence electoral outcomes?
Published on 06 April, 2016 in The Hindu