Are frequent elections a waste of time and money?

March 6, 2009

The general elections in India, due shortly, may not throw up a clear winner.

This could mean weeks or even months of political uncertainty as parties negotiate for power.

Of the past six prime ministers, only three could complete their term.

In this context, the idea for a fixed term for parliament or the government may be floated again.

Indeed, the Chief Election Commissioner recently suggested a fixed term of five years for the government to cope with the increased frequency of elections, which hinders governance.

One reason for such suggestions is that frequent elections are seen as wasteful.

A candidate in a large state is allowed to spend around 2.5 million rupees (US $50,000) to contest for the lower house of parliament in a large state.

The money actually spent by candidates has been reported to be up to five times more.

An average of ten candidates contest the elections for every Lok Sabha seat — giving us an idea of the expenditure involved.

In fact, a survey conducted by the Centre for Media Studies estimates the total amount that will be spent in these general elections at $2 billion, excluding the expenditure in the assembly polls to Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim and Orissa.

Is all this expenditure a waste?

In these recessionary times, elections with such a massive estimated expenditure can prove a blessing for the poor.

It is the poor who vote in droves and man the electoral machinery of most parties. So the elections are also going to result in a transfer of wealth to them.

Since they are more likely to spend any additional income than the rich, the election expenditure will also mean a stimulus package that punches above its weight.

Recession or not, elections for the poor, however frequent they may be, are a source of power as well some money.

Is it elitist to worry about the frequency of elections and look upon them as a necessary evil before one gets on with the more important business of governance and policymaking?


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Elections or frequent elections are a costly affair, but look around to comprehend what happens to countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh where elections are deferred. Since India is a big democracy in terms of the number of electorate, the costs of conducting elections will always be high. Fixing the parliamentary term of the majority party could adversely impact accountability. The current situation where regional parties can bargain for more concessions is beteer than the one party dominance during the era of ‘parliamentary stability’ in India.

Posted by thetrajectory | Report as abusive

As election nears, the ruling party will offer good packages to please the public. So it is good to have elections….

Posted by arun | Report as abusive

Being born and living in India teaches you the most important lesson that of freedom of expression. And elections do ensure that, yes frequency of elections does prove to be a drain but at least that amount of tax payers’ money is visible to us as being spent on elections. Not having frequent elections still brings back the memories of the nightmarish Emergency. And we have the circle of countries surrounding as lessons on the importance of having election rather than the other way. Though i see your concern, but it would be rather elitest not to have elections frequently and let the continuing government become high handed as it is too safe, as the worst hit by that would be the down trodden only.

Posted by Ruchika | Report as abusive

Being the worlds biggest democracy, India provides a roll model to all nations; its perfectly justified to stick to 5 yr cycles, thus enabling people have saisfaction of removing the faultering/ defunct administrations.

Presently, New Delhi has no clue as to how to handle its terror stricken neighborhood: with their future PM,Rahul Gandhi, taking Brit Milliband around a slum as if he was proving a point(dont forget, the entire world has watched ‘slum dog’ movie);living here in US i didnt quite understand what the clown was doing with his slum rounds. All that he had to do is to ask YS Rajashekhar Reddy, present Chief Minister of Andhra, to donate a fraction of his black money to slums to make them look like europe .

Well, true, expences are a prohibitive factor and hence midterm poles should be avoided at any cost.

Posted by AzadDP | Report as abusive

Very True AzadDP…but we deserve what we get and we deserve only clowns like Rahul Gandy and converts like YSR… Mera bharat KAHAN Hai..

Posted by Trey | Report as abusive

Wow it’s nice to see there is no one with the general pessimistic thought. Oh elections, netas, corruption!!!
We are a democracy, slow to work or no, expensive to stay so or no, we must remain a democracy.

Posted by Deepak | Report as abusive