Beyond the Election Drill

There is a thought being promoted that union and state elections should be held simultaneously. The argument given in favour is constant electioneering means country is forever in campaign mode. The move will ensure that center and state governments will focus on governance rather than elections.

On the face of it this sounds like one more magic wand which will cure all our problems. The move is touted to turn our country and states into governance model overnight. It is argued our politicians will strive for progress over caste equations to retain power.

Simplistic solutions to complex structures developed and evolved over the years need are not the best electoral reforms. Apart from being a shining economy and bright investment spot in a gloomy global economic scenario, India’s two other major assets are its young population and a vibrant and truly federal democracy. We get to elect our state governments and central governments and the two choices might be totally independent of each other as is the case in many states.

It our leaders who need to move from campaign mode to governance mode rather than say the country needs to shift its mode.

What needs to be understood why election fall on different dates is not out of choice but as a result of our democratic developments over the years. Some governments collapsed midway their tenure, some had new formations or some states reached a roadblock where apart from fresh elections no other alternative was possible. Same has been witnessed at central level where governments didn’t last their tenure.

Rather than thinking of holding elections on the same date to save poll spend and shift to governance over campaigning, it is imperative our politicians change their attitude. Need of the hour is for our politicians to know and respect the roles we the people has chosen them for than decide what roles do we need to play. Many central leaders today immerse themselves in every election — from parliamentary, assembly to even panchayat polls. Central leaderships of leading political parties must understand public choice them or policy making in parliament and have their local representatives to fix sewers and street lights. When central figures across party lines campaign saying they will rid us of our parking problems, it makes for a laughing stock among electors as we wonder did we choose them for civic issues or asked them to implement national health or education policies.

It our leaders who need to move from campaign mode to governance mode rather than say the country needs to shift its mode. Public today is evolved and knows its horses for courses. In the age of information overload, we clearly know which representative is responsible for which job. As informed citizens we make those responsible choices. Lining up for municipal, assembly or parliamentary elections on separate dates is not a problem for us. The problem is when head of parties who were chosen to decide foreign and defence policies get down to deciding our garbage plans.

The public is clear of its choices. It is high time the top leadership of various parties too get their priorities right. They should know the roles we have chosen for them. It is best for them to let local elections be a local affair and not make it a national spectacle. To put work in Delhi on hold just because Goa is choosing its local government is not why we choose our central governments. Government should govern and not treat any local election as a referendum on itself or as a prestige issue.

A central government can still return to power if they govern well at the Centre despite losing all state polls and a state party may never make it to center despite being the best state administrators. It is high time our state and central leaders understood this.

Profile photo of Dr. Amna Mirza
Dr. Amna Mirza teaches Political Science at University of Delhi.