Poll panel not equipped for simultaneous LS, assembly vote

Simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies may not be possible in the near future even if legal requirements are met, as a report says the Election Commission of India will not be equipped with enough electronic voting machines (EVMs) and VVPAT machines anytime soon.

The Election Commission had on Wednesday said that it was ''logistically equipped'' to hold simultaneous polls September 2018.

However according to The Economic Times, Nirvachan Sadan insiders pointed to a letter that EC sent to the Ministry of Law and Justice on 5 May 2016, where it said that the commission would need at least 25 lakh VVPAT units for simultaneous polls. After it placed an order this April, EC will gain possession of only 16 lakh such units by September 2018.

''Even if the polls were to be conducted in 2019, the deficit cannot be met within a few months as the manufacturers are working in full capacity now,'' a source told the paper.

The Election Commission letter, of which the paper says it has a copy, was sent in response to a ministry query to the 79th report of the parliamentary standing committee in 2015. EC insiders said no fresh communication has taken place on the matter since then.

The EC had also flagged the need for political consensus on amendments to various provisions of the Constitution. The amendments include provisions to Articles 83, 85, 172, 174 and 356 of the Constitution that pertain to fixing the terms of the Lok Sabha and legislative assemblies.

The proposal of holding simultaneous elections has been floated several times in the past. However, a consensus among political parties on the issue has not emerged.

The main reasons cited for holding simultaneous polls are saving huge expenditure on frequent polls, ending ''policy paralysis'' due to imposition of the Model Code of Conduct and saving the huge manpower required for poll duty.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi floated the idea of simultaneous elections at an all-party meeting in March 2016. The NDA government also invited suggestions from the people on the issue.

''We are the political party which has always supported simultaneous Lok Sabha and assembly elections. Just as we stand for 'one nation, one tax' (GST), we support 'one nation, one election'. The idea should be debated and discussed by all political parties,'' BJP spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao has said.