One Nation, One Election is the method of holding single election for both Lok Sabha and State Legislatures instead of separate and continuous elections In an all-party meeting in the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha, Prime Minister invited heads of all parties to discuss the ‘One Nation, One Election’ but the pus! for ‘One Nation, One Election came from Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016 Ever since, there have been widespread discussions on holding simultaneous polls with the Bharatiya Janta Party making a strong pitch for it. The idea of One Nation, One Election envisages a system where elections to all the States and the Lok Sabha will have to be held simultaneously.
This will involve the restructuring of the Indian Election Cycle in a manner that elections to the states and the center synchronise. This would mean that the voters will cast their vote for electing the members of Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies of a single day, at the same time (or in a phased manner as the case may be). Few of the many reasons that are cited for the conduct of simultaneous elections include massive expenditure, diversion of security and civil staff from primary duties, impact on governance due to the model code of conduct, disruption to normal public life etc.
Simultaneous elections is not a new concept. They were followed till 1967. But with dissolution of some Legislative Assemblies in 1968 and 1969, followed by Lol Sabha in December 1970 resulted in confusion. Since then, separate elections to State and Parliament are held.
The idea of reverting to simultaneous polls was initially mooted in the annual report of the Election Commission in 1983. The Law Commission’s Report also referred to it in 1999. The Law Commission submitted a Draft Report to the government on 30th August, 2018, endorsing the proposal. It even recommended changes to the Constitution and the Electoral law so as to enable holding simultaneous polls and sought five Constitutional Amendments to get this off the ground. The Election Commission of India (ECI) has also favoured the concept in recent times.l
Suggestive Ways to Implement the Idea
One proposal was to shift to simultaneous polls in a phased manner, where General Elections, State Assemblies and Union Territories elections were pending in 2018 or 2019 to be synchronised in 2019. These states were Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Sikkim, Telangana, Haryana, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Union Territory of NCT (Delhi).
For such a synchronisation to happen, besides political consensus and extension of term upto six months in some states, amendments to the Constitution have to be made. Elections to the remaining State Legislative Assemblies and Union Territory with Legislature (Puducherry) will be synchronised by the end of 2021. Thereafter, elections to the Lok Sabha, all the State Legislative Assemblies and Union Territories (with legislatures) will be held simultaneously from 2024.
The second option involved synchronisation in two batches. First, elections to the 12 State Legislative Assemblies and one Union Territory would have been synchronised with elections to the Lok Sabha in 2019. Next, elections to the remaining State Legislative Assemblies shall be synchronised with that of one Union Territory by the end of 2021. This would have made elections across the country synchronised in such a manner that they shall be held twice every five years. Unfortunately both the proposals could not materalise. In 2019, General election and state elections were held separately.
Challenges of Simultaneous Elections
Some of the challenges of simultaneous elections are given below
The conduct of elections for the largest democracy in the world with nearly one billion voters is a gigantic task in itself. Hence, it needs to properly take care of the democratic values and ethical election mechanism without hindering the daily life cycle of common man and compromising with the developmental activities. At present, one voting machine is being used at every poll. For holding simultaneous elections, there shall be requirement of two EVM and VVPATs each, in addition to additional requirement of the polling staff and better security arrangements. Currently, ECI is already facing problems in storing EVMs after election.
The process will also be unrealistic without any Constitutional Amendments and changes in the Representation of People Act, 1950 and 1951, which involve changes in the form of governance, basic feature and election mechanism in the country. This requires a deep political consensus and high public support which is tough to achieve given differing ideologies, thinking and perceptions.
Breakdown of Federal Structure
Holding simultaneous elections will also add to losing the relevance and mixing up of local issues with the national ones. National issues will be given higher priority over the local ones. There is also clear empirical evidence that most Indian voters tend to choose the same party when elections are held simultaneously to both Centre and State, with the relationship diminishing as elections are held farther away. Under a simultaneous elections regime, the state will be beholden to the Union Government for elections to its state, which goes against the very grain of political autonomy under the federal structure. The trend may also give birth to a personality cult in the Indian political arena which will hamper the tenets of governance.
The right of a voter to exercise his/her choice twice in a span of five years and hold governments accountable is more important than just casting vote once and having no option to express opinion for the next five
Parliamentary Form of Government
The core problem area which is coming in the way of implementing this is the Parliamentary form of Government which India practices. In this, the Government is accountable to the lower house, be it at the level of the State Assemblies or in the Lok Sabha. If the government is accountable to the lower house, given the nature of the Parliamentary form of Government, the Government can fall before it completes its term and the moment the government falls, there has to be fresh elections.
• Distance Between Voters and Representatives
Apart from that, it also has several intrinsic consequences like decrease in the public-politician interaction as frequent elections in the country bring politicians back to public frequently whereas cutting down on elections would mean making them lazy for the rest of the term. The terms of various state governments and center have to be matched, as against irregular ones currently. This requires extension of and early dissolution of few state assemblies which is against the constitutional mandates and may involve political favouritism.
Benefits of Simultaneous Elections
Though, the road to simultaneous elections is not an easy one, but it does provide several merits to soothe and the ailments of the hurdles. The process will leave the election process easy, less expensive and more productive as the unprecedented cost, manpower and time wasted on multiple elections at frequent intervals will be cut drastically.
The precious money from tax payers pocket will be better spent on developmental activities rather than movement of election equipments, security forces and manpower for election. Parties individually spend a lot on election campaigning, the amount that could be put to better use if they have to do that only at once for the general election as well as the state election.
government can focus more on development and welfare policies as half of the time spent concentrating on strategies for the upcoming election will reduced. If elections are conducted at a designated interval, politicians will focus more on long-term development. Security forces also have to be less diverted for the electoral work as terrorism remains a strong threat to India.
One Nation, One Election would be a good change if it could be carried out with the proper execution of policies and rules, taking care of the rising need for good administrative staff and security. The Standing Committee has said that solutions should be found to reduce the frequency of elections in India so that government machinery, as well as Election Commission, can get sometime for other administrative works.
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