New Delhi, April 28 (IANS) Holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies may be desirable but not feasible, former chief election commissioner S.Y. Quraishi has said.
Asked about suggestions to this effect by Prime Minister Narendra Modi among others, Quraishi told IANS in an interview: “There are merits in the suggestion. The idea may be desirable but not feasible.
“There are two basic merits in proposing simultaneous elections,” he explained. “The chief factor is the cost of elections both for the government and the EC (Election Commission) and the political parties.
“Secondly, frequent elections can also result in enhancement of communalism and casteism and corruption in the form of vices like vote-buying and fund raising.
“I said once, if the country is perpetually in election mode, there is no respite from these evils.”
But as of now, simultaneous elections were not feasible, he said.
“Moreover, voters may also may not reconcile well with local and national issues. Voters view local issues differently and these issues often overtake wider state and national issues.”
Quraishi also said West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress were “absolutely wrong” in attacking the Election Commission.
Quraishi, in fact, lauded the efforts of the poll panel in overseeing the staggered ongoing assembly elections in West Bengal.
“I have been an admirer of the political stewardship of West Bengal leaders. But this is a big letdown. It is not done. You cannot do it. Attacking the Election Commission is absolutely wrong,” Quraishi said.
He said conducting elections in a democracy was a solemn responsibility and “given the political situation, it is tough”.
“I complement the Election Commission for whatever they are doing. It is tough and a laudable job,” said Quraishi, who headed the Election Commission during the 2011 West Bengal elections when Mamata Banerjee took power after ending 34 years of Left rule.
“Therefore, I say it is high time political parties and more so their leadership show maturity in their conduct both during election campaigning and also while they behave and act vis-a-vis the election panel.”
Recalling his experience of handling elections in West Bengal, Quraishi told IANS: “Even in 2011, it was expected to be tough and violence prone.”
But, he said, “I must express satisfaction as I look back today that in 2011 we could give a zero-bloodshed polling”.
He said the credit for that goes to the polling personnel and security forces and the cooperation the Election Commission got from the then state administration and people.
Quraishi, however, said he was “not drawing any comparison between 2011 and 2016”.
He said no two elections even in one state can be compared in the strict sense of the term as “political ground reality and the mood of the political activists change”.
“The Election Commission is definitely doing a satisfactory job under the given situation and challenges.”
(Nirendra Dev can be contacted at email@example.com)