Undeniably frequent elections to parliament and to various state assemblies mar political stability and governance. There was a serious proposal some years ago to make the terms of parliament and state assemblies fixed and to make elections to all legislatures simultaneous. Somehow nothing came of the proposal although there was considerable support for it. Now that proposal has again been informally revived.
Last Sunday senior BJP leader Mr. LK Advani disclosed on his blog that he had again mooted the proposal to senior Congress leaders. He wrote: “Let the present government…accomplish this one thing at least: a fixed tenure for Lok Sabha and state assemblies, and simultaneous elections at the Centre and the states every five years… Some time back I had occasion to discuss with the Prime Minister and then Leader of the House in Lok Sabha and now Rashtrapati Pranab Mukherjee. I found both of them receptive to the suggestion.”
This proposal is most welcome. One has frequently advocated it in these columns. With fixed terms if a leader at the Centre or in any state is voted out the House would have to elect the replacement bypassing a mid-term poll. In the very remote event of the legislature being unable to elect a replacement there would be either the President’s or the Governor’s rule till the term ends. This would undoubtedly go a considerable way in ensuring stability and continuity of policy. However Mr. Advani’s initiative though being good as far as it goes, does not go quite far enough. If reform is to be attempted why not go the whole way to improve governance?
It has been suggested earlier in these columns that along with parliament and state assemblies the President’s election should also be simultaneous and term of office co-terminus with legislatures. Thereby, without in any way altering the basic structure of the Constitution, the President would obtain virtually a nationwide popular mandate. Though the election to the office would continue to be indirect through voting by MPs and MLAs, the President would be voted to office not by previously elected legislators but by new incumbents contesting polls along with the President. Thereby the public would know, while casting votes for legislators, which Presidential candidate would be strengthened by their votes. Simultaneous elections would clarify which parties and groups support which Presidential candidate.
This would end the confusion about the President’s role in governance. No eyebrows would be raised if the President elected in this way would, apart from advising government and parliament on policy, also oversee implementation of the Constitution and law by authority at both the centre and in the states. People by and large have endorsed the proposal to establish a Lokpal as an ombudsman to curb corruption. The Lokpal proposal has several deficiencies including accountability and mandate related to the office. No such weakness is associated to the office of the President. Rashtrapati Bhawan could house the Super Lokpal.