NEW DELHI: Moving towards the adoption of a single electoral roll for elections at all levels — parliamentary, assembly and local — the government has begun discussions on enabling legal changes that may be required to achieve this synergy. Sources told TOI that at a recent meeting attended by senior officials of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Election Commission of India (ECI) decided that the Cabinet secretary would hold talks with state chief secretaries and persuade them to make necessary amendments in their own laws governing local body polls, to allow adoption of ECI rolls for panchayat and municipal polls.
While ECI is empowered by Article 324 of the Constitution to hold polls to Lok Sabha and state assemblies, for which a common voters’ list is used, state election commissions (SEC) derive their powers from Article 243K and 243ZA to prepare rolls for local body polls. However, SECs of 22 states are known to rely on ECI rolls for conduct of three-tier polls, thanks to an enabling provision in their relevant state laws.
An Election Commission official said that the single voters’ list suggestion dates back to 1999 and that it is not linked to another pending proposal of the government for simultaneous polls. “As far as simultaneous polls are concerned, all bodies — the law commission, parliamentary standing committee and NITI Aayog — that have studied and made recommendations on the issue, have confined themselves to examining simultaneous polls to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies,” said the official.
At the meeting comprising the cabinet secretary and representatives of PMO, law ministry, Panchayati Raj and ECI held a few days ago, two options — first, a Constitutional amendment to Article 243K and Article 243ZA to make it mandatory for SECs to adopt ECI rolls and second, getting states where ECI voters’ list is not in use currently, to enable the same by revising their own relevant Acts, were discussed. The consensus favoured the latter.
While the BJP manifesto for 2019 LS polls had promised simultaneous polls to all three tiers of government, no discussion has been held yet on including the third tier in the scope of simultaneous polls.