Can Hold Lok Sabha Polls, 4 State Assembly Elections Together in December, Says CEC OP Rawat
Dismissing the charge that he is a stooge of the government, CEC Rawat said it was the government which vetoed the EC's plan to have contempt provision like the courts.

New Delhi: Chief election commissioner (CEC) OP Rawat on Wednesday said the EC was capable of holding Lok Sabha and assembly polls in four states together in December if the parliamentary elections were advanced.

Rawat, when asked if the Election Commission (EC) was ready for Lok Sabha polls in December along with those in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Rajasthan, said “there would not be any problem”.

The CEC’s statement comes just two days after sources in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) indicated that the Centre was keen on holding elections in 11 states along with the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

There have been speculations in some circles that the Lok Sabha elections, scheduled for April-May 2019, may be advanced to November-December this year so that they can be held simultaneously with assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Rajasthan.

While the term of the Mizoram assembly will end on December 15, the terms of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan assemblies would end on January 5, 7 and 20 next year.

Asked whether the required electronic voting machines (EVMs) and paper trail machines would be ready in case of such an eventuality, the CEC said while all the required EVMs would be in place by September-end, paper trail machines would come by the end of November.

The EC had earlier admitted that the delivery of VVPATs had been delayed but expressed confidence that they were on track for the 2019 general elections.

“As you had sought to know, if Lok Sabha elections are held in December, then the first level check (FLC) of the 1.5 lakh VVPATs (which EC would get in November-end) would be difficult ... then some critical small gaps would be there,” he said.

While the EC needs EVMs and VVPATs for 10 lakh polling stations for the LS polls, it needs the two devices for two lakh polling stations in four states where assembly elections would be due in December-January. “There would be a little constraint on the reserves. Instead of 135 per cent (reserves), we will have to go for 130 per cent if the situation arises,” Rawat said about VVPATs.

Rawat said there had been delays in the delivery of paper trail machines as the Technical Experts Committee appointed by it analyses the technology stabilisation issues in the initial batches and incorporates essential design improvements. “This ensures we don't face the problems later,” he said.

Over 11 per cent of the 10,300 VVPAT machines across 10 states had developed faults and had to be replaced during the May 28 bypolls.

There is a view within the BJP that holding assembly elections of as many states as possible with the Lok Sabha polls will be a positive plank in its favour as Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly emphasised his support to the idea.

Modi had called for a “widespread” debate on holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies and said if implemented, it would result in savings.

By clubbing assembly elections in states ruled mostly by the BJP, the party would send a message that it means business, its leaders said. This would also help the party counter the anti-incumbency factor in states ruled by it.

The NITI Aayog had last year suggested synchronised, two-phase Lok Sabha and assembly polls from 2024. The Law Commission's draft paper titled ‘Simultaneous Elections - Constitutional and Legal Perspectives’ has recommended amendments to the Constitution and the Representation of People's Act, 1950 to facilitate and sustain the concept of simultaneous polls.

The Congress, on its part, has called the idea "misplaced". The Trinamool Congress and the CPI have not shown great enthusiasm too, calling it a step against the federal structure of the Constitution. However, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav welcomed the Prime Minister’s proposal for holding simultaneous elections.

(With PTI inputs)