The Election Commission on Tuesday virtually ruled out the possibility of holding simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in 2019.
Chief Election Commissioner O P Rawat said it would be difficult to make logistical arrangements for simultaneous polls. He also pointed out that the terms of the existing assemblies of some states would have to be curtailed or extended if elections were to be held with the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls. It would require Parliament to amend the Constitution to change the terms of the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, he said.
Article 83(2) of the Constitution provides for a term of five years for the Lok Sabha from the date of its first sitting unless dissolved earlier.
Article 172(1) provides for a five-year tenure for state assemblies from the date of first sitting.
The poll panel’s decision to deploy Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) devices with all Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) made it all the more difficult for it to be logistically ready to hold simultaneous elections. “Logistics arrangements with respect to 100% availability of VVPATs will be a constraint,” the CEC told journalists in New Delhi.
To meet the requirement of additional VVPATs during 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Election Commission had in May 2017 placed orders with the ECIL and BEL for 16.15 lakh paper trail devices.
The Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) in Bengaluru and the Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) in Hyderabad have so far delivered 4.36 lakh and 1.52 lakh VVPATs respectively. The rest are likely to be delivered by the end of November. But these devices are just enough to conduct parliamentary polls and five state Assembly elections, which are anyway scheduled to be held together next year.
The poll panel will require more VVPATs if it has to conduct polls in more states along with parliamentary election.
Rawat also noted that the EC would need additional polling and police personnel.
The CEC ruled out the possibility of implementing the ‘One-Nation-One-Poll’ concept just a day after BJP president Amit Shah argued in its favour in a letter to Law Commission chairman Justice B S Chouhan. The Congress and other Opposition parties have been opposing it.
Parliamentary elections are likely to be held in April and May, as the new Lok Sabha will have to be constituted before June 3, 2019. As many as 11 states will also elect new assemblies later this year and throughout the next year.
The terms of the existing assemblies in Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan will end in December and January. The four states are likely to go to polls together towards the end of this year.
The polling to elect assemblies in Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Sikkim and Telangana will take place along with parliamentary elections next year. Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana are scheduled to be held later next year.