Fixed Tenure for Legislatures

Fixed Tenure for Legislatures

While casting his vote at Ahmedabad during the third phase of the elections, L K Advani raised a few fundamental issues which need to be taken seriously. He asked the political parties and the Election Commission to think over changing the Constitution for a fixed tenure for Lok Sabha and the Assemblies. He said that the same went on for the first four General elections but this has been completely delinked since 1971 pre-mature dissolution of the Parliament. He also spoke of voting being made compulsory and to take place in the month of February.

It is true that Advani is being liked and disliked in equal measures by people on both side of the divide. There is a perceptibly large number of people who are in no way among the admirer of the person but despite this fact each of his words as narrated above need to be taken seriously. There is no doubt that despite our country voting for a new Parliament to be followed by a new government, two important factors are there for everyone to see. The first of these is the low voter turn out which goes down as low as 25% in a state like Jammu & Kashmir and in general falls around 50%. While one of the important reasons for such a situation might be the voter's apathy and complete disinterest towards these political persons whom they have seen long to get completely disenchanted and averse, yet a sizeable percentage of low voting can easily be attributed to the weather where the simmering heat around the country is making people stay in their homes instead of moving out to vote. Thus, if in an urban constituency like Lucknow or Kanpur , the voting is as low as 39% or 42%, then it is time for all of us to sit down and to ponder.

Since the democracy, by its very genesis, is the kind of government which relates itself to people (i.e. the voters) and gains all its strength and authority from this very fact, hence if more than half the voting population does not come out to cast its most potent weapon, then the entire exercise automatically becomes meaningless. Can any one cherish the fact that the winning candidate from many of the Constituencies shall be representing it with hardly 10-15% of the voting population having okayed his candidature? This is a serious question that we need to answer. For this some kind of compulsion as regards casting one's vote might be enforced. And it will not be a dictatorial order, it will more be a facilitator for this great cause. But to enforce this compulsory voting status, the State needs to take a very large number of measures which could guarantee this mandatory voting provision. This would include all the possible use of innovative technological and managerial ideas and their pooling together to come up with a solution which provides every voter such a condition where casting the vote does not come as a distraction or disturbance or nuisance to them. Changing the voting season to February seems to a brilliant idea because this is the month which has the least amount of distractions, disturbances and diversions.

Even more important is the issue raise by him where he has suggested a fixed tenure for all the State Assemblies along with the National Parliament. If only such a thing could actually happen ! It would not only solve many of our problems but would also reduce the costs and trouble in the entire exercise to a massive scale. There are two different issues involved here. The first one is as regards the fixed tenure of these Legislative bodies. Their need is increasingly being felt. With the kind of "hung" legislative bodies where the people's verdict is completely fractured, the fear of a deadlock where none of the groups or formations is able to form a government is becoming the order of the day. We saw this at the National scale on so many occasions in the past. The same holds true for the States. The few recent examples where it happened in the most blatant and perverse manner are Bihar , Jharkhand and Karnataka. There can be many more examples.

Thus, more important than the elections, it is the post-poll scenario that has become much more relevant. With aspirations running high and the ambitions going sky-bound, each one of these groups and sub-groups lay their claim on the highest chair. The result is often visible in the form of a caricature of democracy where these legislators present the dirty dance before us which we as the helpless citizen are forced to watch. There is an immediate and the most urgent need to make some formulations in which the formation of a government and its continuity becomes almost an automatic and mechanical exercise, so that these greedy politicians do not have much discretion left to them in these matters. This is one such suggestion that India needs to adopt at all costs. Otherwise, things are going to turn for the worse in the days to come.

Again, the simultaneous elections for the National and State legislatures is a much desired goal. No doubt, its initiation would face some practical difficulties because over the years, the different State Assemblies have got spread over a very wide spectrum and hence many of them might try to show their disagreement as regards the date of dissolution for beginning this process. One suggestion in this regards could be to make a mathematical formulation for deciding this matter and to enforce it.

Finally, I would like to add that while Advani is absolutely correct when he asks for such changes. But he certainly goes off tangent when he finds a place for the Election Commission in this process. May be, this is the hangover of the Election Commission's overriding powers that it has usurped over the years. It is because the Election Commission is nothing more than a regulatory and implementing body, albeit deriving some authority through the Constitution but it does not have a role in the Policy formations of basic and fundamental nature. This is the work that will have to be done only the political parties themselves, with the aid and assistance of the academicians, legal luminaries and other enlightened citizen.

Though it may sound a bit too unrealistic but I am sure the real compulsions of our democratic system will sooner or later force us to move in this direction.

Dr Nutan Thakur
IRDS, Lucknow