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During the Drafting Committee debates on Elections and Election Commission, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar pointed out two alternatives on the Election Commission. He suggested either it can be a permanent body or a temporary body that will set up before elections and wound upon completion of the elections. The major reason for this suggestion were;
- Elections were expected only once in five years.
- Bye-elections will take place only on rare occasions.
So Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was of the opinion that a permanent Election Commission will have no work between the intervening four years.
The path towards Permanent Election Commission
But other legal luminaries like Prof. Shibaan Lal Saksena cautioned Dr B.R. Ambedkar. They mentioned reasons such as
- There is a high possibility of mid-term dissolution of Legislative Assemblies.
- There is no fixed term for the Houses of Legislature.
- Also, the Indian constitution does not prescribe a fixed election cycle.
- There might be the case where elections were conducted regularly in some State or the other State.
So in such a scenario, a state of readiness of the Election Commission is necessary to conduct fresh elections promptly. As predicted by the Assembly India at present facing a constant election in one state or the other.
From One nation one election to One nation multiple elections
- India had concurrent elections for the first two decades. The first general elections held simultaneously to Lok Sabha and the Legislative Assemblies of the States in October 1951.
- The next three cycles of elections also witnessed concurrent Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly elections. The exceptions to this were,
- Kerala(mid-term election held in 1960 on the premature dissolution of the Assembly)
- Formation of Nagaland and Pondicherry Legislative Assemblies after 1962 general elections.
- The last occasion India had near-simultaneous elections in the country was in 1967. (Except Nagaland and Pondichery).
- The fourth Lok Sabha dissolved prematurely in 1971. This resulted in a mid-term Lok Sabha election. This was the beginning of the end of simultaneous elections in India.
- Apart from this, there are two important reasons that disturbed the simultaneous election. One, Extension of the term of Lok Sabha during the National Emergency in 1975. The other, the dissolution of Assemblies of some States after the 1977 Lok Sabha election
- Recently, only four State Assemblies went to polls along with the Lok Sabha elections. The other States have Assembly elections at different times.
- Further, at least two rounds of Assembly general elections are getting conducted every year by the election commission.
In conclusion, to conduct a One Nation One Election, the terms of the Lok Sabha and the Legislative Assemblies of all States and Union Territories have to end together.
Challenges to synchronize the terms of the Houses
Constitutional and legislative challenges:
To implement one nation one election the following Articles of Constitution and legislations have to be amended.
- Clause (2) of Article 83 provides for the terms of Lok Sabha (five years from the date appointed). Similarly, Article 172(1) regards the term of Legislative Assemblies.
- Articles 85(2)(b) and 174(2)(b) provides for the dissolution of Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies respectively.
- Further, the Indian constitution has no provision for extension of the term unless a proclamation of Emergency is in operation.
- Sections 14 and 15 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, empower the Election Commission to notify elections. These sections empower the Election Commission to notify elections during the last six months of the term of the House and not earlier than that.
- India needs adequate safeguards in place to avoid mid-term dissolution and protect the simultaneous elections cycle
- A strong political will is also necessary. As the one election will require extending/curtailing the terms of several of the Houses. In some states, extension/curtailment may go up to two to three years.
- Doubling of expenses on electronic voting machines (EVMs) and Voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) printer. Since the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections are not held together, the same EVMs and VVPATs are utilised for both the elections. At present, India is having more than one million polling stations. So, the expense of EVMs and VVPATs alone will cost more than Rs. 4,000 crores.
Significance of one nation one election
The advocates of simultaneous election credit the following two factors as a need.
- Simultaneous elections will reduce labour, time, and expenditure in the conduct of elections;
- Instances of pause in governance are addressed if elections are conducted in one go instead of staggered elections.
- Increased voter turnout: Frequent elections can bring in the election-fatigue factor
at least among some sections of electors.
Simultaneous elections and expenditure:
- Polling stations for Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly elections are the same. Further, there is no need for duplication of work in preparing the electoral rolls for the two elections. Hence, no extra labour or expenditure is involved for these purposes.
- Also, during the conduct of elections, all logistic arrangements, drills, training, deployment of the Central Police Force can cater to both the elections.
- All this would mean saving on transport, accommodation, storage arrangements, training, remuneration, and so on.
- Apart from the election and associated costs, simultaneous elections will also bring down the campaign expense of political parties. After one nation one election, Political parties will engage in public rallies, roadshows, smaller roadside meetings,
advertisements on print and electronic media, etc. for both the elections. So All these will significantly reduce the campaign expense.
Simultaneous elections and governance:
Model Code of Conduct (MCC) will come into operation from the date the election is announced by the Election Commission.
- MCC prohibits using official resources for electoral activities, announcing financial grants, new schemes, etc. on the party in power.
- In the Lok Sabha election, the MCC applies to both the Union and State Governments.
- During the Assembly elections for a state, the Union government cannot introduce new schemes specific to that state
- For bye-elections, the application of MCC is similar and restricted to the District concerned
If one nation one election is implemented, then the restrictions under MCC will applicable only for a limited period. So, governance will get improve in India holistically
Simultaneous elections and increased voter turn out:
Frequent elections can bring in the election-fatigue factor, at least among some sections of electors. This results in urban apathy on voting. Thus, a simultaneous nationwide election could push up the voter turnout, since a once-in-five-year event is bound to attract more enthusiastic participation across all sections. Better electors’ participation will further add to the credibility of the elections.
Need to avoid Local Body elections in one nation one election
So far, the debate on one nation’s election focussed on synchronizing Lok Sabha elections and the Assembly election. There is no or little debate on synchronizing Local bodies in one nation one election. The reasons are,
- Under the superintendence, direction, and control of the respective State Election Commissions the elections to local bodies are conducted. So, The local body elections are not under the National Election Commission. This will create a problem. Such as same polling officials reporting and take instructions from two different authorities simultaneously.
- In many states, The State Election Commission follows a distinct set of polling stations for local bodies’ elections. Bringing them under simultaneous elections will create unnecessary issues in them.
- Different authority for election petition-related challenge: The local bodies’ election can be challenged to the Court of District Judge and other lower courts. On the other hand, an election petition challenging a Parliamentary or Assembly election is to be brought up before the High Court. Therefore, situations may arise where the same issue forms a ground to challenge the election may be raised in two different Courts
For maintaining the electoral cycle, some countries have certain legal provisions to implement it. India can try to implement them for achieving one nation one election. For instance,
- Coupling the ‘no-confidence motion’ along with the ‘vote of confidence’ in an alternative government. This vote of confidence will also mention a leader to head it. After passing both of them(no-confidence motion and vote of confidence), the alternate government will head the government for the remaining term. This helps to maintain the fixed term.
The further scrutiny and analysis of one nation one election is the need of the hour. But the implementation of one nation one election will also require a huge political will to implement.
Source: Yojana May, 2021