Polls on the Same Date

The government's proposal for holding the Lok Sabha polls and the various assembly polls at the same date is sickening in its stupidity, but mischievous in its intent. The history of Indian parliamentary democracy is replete with instances of state cabinets losing their majority status and being forced to resign, paving the way for midterm polls. Such cases can also be found in the history of Lok Sabha polls. What will happen in each of such cases there is no ready answer. In any case, it shows that holding elections for state assemblies at the same date as that of the Lok Sabha polls is next to impossible. This is as clear as daylight, at least to those who have the minimum common sense. There is one answer to this disturbing question, however. The answer is that whenever a state cabinet collapses, the President's rule should be imposed until the date of the next Lok Sabha polls. It is not known how many states may come under the President's rule in this process in the near future, but given the common practice of horse-trading in the Indian parliamentary system, the number of such states is well likely to be large, although such events will occur in a sporadic fashion, now here, now there. If some central cabinet falls, as the case was there on one or two occasions, will the President's rule be imposed over the whole of the country and continue to function until the next polls? If the case turns out to be so, we shall move gradually towards a presidential system of government. This is possibly the hidden agenda of this queer proposal. It is not so grotesque after all. It is cunningly thought out. It may be recalled that Indira Gandhi, after winning the Lok Sabha polls of 1980, publicly expressed her desire to have a national debate on the presidential system of government. She did not, however, proceed with this agenda, because other disturbances came to torment her. Mujibur Rahman, shortly after becoming the President of new-born Bangladesh, renamed his party as BAKSAL(Bangladesh Krishak Sramik League) and banned all other political parties. There was a reign of fear all around, and many succumbed to it voluntarily or under pressure. The result of this despotism was that when he was brutally killed along with his wife, sons and daughters-in-law-- only two daughters, then abroad, survived-- there was little uproar in Bangladesh. The way Mujib's family was exterminated was inhuman and made many expect that there would be a general uprising in Bangladesh against those who replaced him. Instead there was a general silence. The reason was the BAKSAL despotism under a presidential system and gradual decline in Mujib's popularity.

The hidden agenda of a presidential form of government is, however, unlikely to succeed in India, given the vastness of the country and the largeness of the number of states that constitute the Indian Union. But if it succeeds, there will be an almost complete undermining of whatever semblance of democracy is left in the country. The upshot will not be happy for those who have mooted the new proposal.

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Vol. 52, No. 4, Jul 28 -Aug 3, 2019