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‘One Nation, One Election’: feasible for India?

Context:

  • The Election Commission of India (EC) has favored simultaneous elections for Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.
  • But considering the two sides of the same coin, there is an array of argument as to whether elections are to be conducted simultaneously or not.

What is ‘One Nation, One Election’?

  • ‘One Nation, One Election’ is the method of holding single elections for both Lok Sabha and States instead of separate and continuous elections.
  • Four reasons have been cited for the same:
    • massive expenditure;
    • diversion of security and civil staff from primary duties;
    • impact on governance due to the model code of conduct, and
    • disruption to normal public life.

What is the ardent necessity?

  • India being one of the largest countries in the world, every year one or the other state is geared up for an election in India.
  • But simultaneous election means a single voter will vote for both Lok Sabha elections as well as State Assembly elections on the same day, and elections can be conducted in phase wise manner in all the states.

What are the pros of implementing simultaneous polls? 

Saving cost: 

  • The election procedure is not only tiresome and hectic but also expensive.
  • 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.

More focus on development:

  • Half of the year is spent by politicians concentrating on strategies for the upcoming election.
  • If elections are conducted simultaneously, politicians will focus more on long-term development.

Model code of conduct:

  • When elections take place, a Model code of conduct is applied, during which a reigning government cannot launch any new schemes or make any transfers or appointments.
  • With simultaneous elections, the time for the model code will get reduced and a simultaneous election reduces policy paralysis.

Hassle free method:

  • Simultaneous elections bring less disruption to public life, less road traffic and less loss to our econom
  • As all the government staff can be used at a single time, we can also increase vigilance, and factors like black money, booth capturing, etc. can be reduced.

Disrupts the service sector:

  • Over a crore government employees, including a large number of teachers, are involved in the electoral process.
  • Thus, the continuous exercise causes maximum harm to the education sector.

Security Concerns:

  • Security forces also have to be diverted for the electoral work even as terrorism remains a strong threat to India.

What are the cons of implementing simultaneous polls? 

Amendments to the constitution:

  • To conduct simultaneous elections in India, many amendments to the constitution of India are to be made.
    • Article 83of the Constitution provides for the tenure of both Houses of the Parliament (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha).
    • Article 83(2)11provides for a term of five years for Lok Sabha, from the date of its first sitting unless dissolved earlier.
    • Article 172 (1)provides for five year tenure for State Legislative Assembly from the date of its first sitting.
    • The provison to Article 83 (2)of the Constitution provides that when a proclamation of emergency is in operation, the term of the House may be extended for a period not exceeding one year at a time by Parliament by law and not extending in any case beyond a period of six months after the Proclamation has ceased to operate.
    • Similar provision also exists for State Legislative Assembly under the proviso to Article 172 (1)of the Constitution.
    • Article 85 (2)(b)of the Constitution of India provides the President with the power to dissolve Lok Sabha. Similar provision for dissolution of State Legislative Assemblies by the Governor of State is provided under Article 174 (2)(b).i.
    • The Representation of People Act 1951, which covers various modalities of conducting elections in the country, also needs to be amended.

Less interaction public-politician interaction:

  • Frequent elections in the country will bring politicians back to public frequently whereas cutting down on elections would mean making them lazy for the rest of the term.

Different terms:

  • The terms of different state governments are ending on separate dates and years.
  • To hold simultaneous elections, the Centre will have to make some states agree to curtail the terms of their houses while others to extend theirs.
  • While extension may not be a problem, curtailment of Assembly terms may be a major issue.

Mixing up the national issues:

  • Holding both the elections together will also mean mixing up the national issues with those of the state. 
  • The national issues would overpower the state which in turn would get less priority from the politicians.

Mutual consensus:

  • The biggest challenge to simultaneous polls lies in getting all parties political consensus needed to bring amendment in the law.

Hassle in normal public life can be managed:

  • The right of a voter to exercise her choice twice in a span of five years and hold governments accountable is much more important than just casting vote once and having no option to express opinion for the next five years.

Voter behavior:

  • There is 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.

Political autonomy:

  • 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.

Conclusion:

  • ‘One India 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 India so that government machinery, as well as election commission, can get some time for other administrative works.
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