Are frequent elections a waste of time and money?
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?