The concept of one Nation one election has once again come forward in deliberations in recent times. The Prime Minister of India recently pitched up the need for a One Nation One Election in the All India Presiding officers’ Conference. He pointed out that it is the need of the country as elections taking place every few months hamper the developmental works. This has also emerged as an important and necessary requirement for our country. What is the main idea behind the concept of one nation one election? The one Nation one election concept emphasizes simultaneous elections in both Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies. This would mean that the voter will have to cast his or her vote to elect the candidate of his or her choice of Lok Sabha and state legislative assembly on a single day, on the same polling booth. A Single (same) electoral roll would be used in the Lok Sabha and state legislative assembly elections. The present-day government is emphasizing the need to implement the One Nation One Election in India.
The concept of simultaneous elections is not new to India. Post-adoption of the constitution, the elections to Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies were held simultaneously until 1967 until the system of simultaneous elections got disrupted. The proposal of simultaneous elections was first put forward by the election commission of India in 1982-83. The Election Commission asked for the necessary reforms to be implemented to get the election cycle in India back on track (simultaneous elections) as was until 1967. In 1999, the Law Commission in its 170th report put forth the need for simultaneous elections in India. The commission also pointed that this system would not and cannot be implemented in one go rather it had to be developed over some time. A parliamentary standing committee report in 2015 also pointed that India should head towards simultaneous elections for both Lok Sabha and state legislative assembly. NITI published a thesis submitted by Vivek Debroi and Kishor Desai which analyzed the simultaneous elections in India. This report pointed out that in India there have been elections every year in the last 30 years which shows that political parties in India are in a continuous mode of election. Again, in 2018, the Law Commission submitted a draft report which put forth the options available to implement simultaneous elections in India. The present-day PM of India has also emphasized that India should adopt the System of simultaneous elections and as it poses to be a positive reform in the development of India towards prosperity.
The following arguments are put forward by the supporters of simultaneous elections:
● Better Governance
In the present system of elections, development programs and schemes of the government remain suspended till the time the Model Code of Conduct is applicable.
Ministers can focus on better governance in case of simultaneous elections.
● Reduction in expenditure by the government
Regular and frequent elections lead to massive expenditures in the conduction of elections.
Simultaneous elections will reduce government expenditure.
● Policy paralysis would be avoided
Experience shows that the government has put off/ postponed implementation of difficult policies and reforms due to upcoming near elections. This is not good for a country like India.
Simultaneous elections will put off these effects of the present system of frequent elections.
● Availability of security forces for their main function
Security forces are kept engaged during the elections period which means inefficient use of security forces. Simultaneous elections will result in the availability of security forces for their main function.
● Peaceful and prosperous public life
Frequent elections are one of the causes of the repetition of religious, communal, caste issues in our country. Simultaneous elections will maintain peace and tranquility in public.
● Better voters’ turnout
According to the Law Commission’s report, the system of simultaneous elections will increase voters’ turnout which implies more people’s participation in democracy. In other words, it would promote Participatory Democracy in India
With these positives, the system of simultaneous elections has the following criticisms:
● Operational feasibility
Our constitutional system does not allow for simultaneous elections. Critics argue that there is a shortage of EVMs and staff for the implementation of the system of simultaneous elections.
● Reduction in accountability
According to former Chief Election Commissioner of India Sri S. Y. Quraishi, frequent elections are one of the causes for accountability of the elected candidates. Simultaneous elections can cause a reduction in the accountability of the candidates.
● Impact on voters’ behavior
Simultaneous elections can go in the direction of ‘‘One Nation One Election One Leader’’ which is not favorable and fair for local parties. Local issues and weaker sections will also be neglected by simultaneous elections.
‘‘Simultaneous elections will curb the voice of the people living at the margins of society by strangulating the scope for Regional parties which reflect local aspirations/ issues. This will cause the process of deepening democracy.’’ – Professor Sanjay Kumar, Director (CSDS), and Professor Jagdeep Sokar (ADR)
● States fear that the system of simultaneous elections can reduce some of their powers like the function of state election commission will be performed by the election commission of India.
● Simultaneous elections may affect job creation opportunities also.
● It may be difficult for India to fix a suitable time slot for voting as in the case of the United States of America.
This system of simultaneous elections needs some constitutional amendments to get implemented.
There will have to be amendments in the constitution in Article 83 (duration of the house), Article 85 (dissolution of Lok Sabha), Article 172 (duration of the state legislature), Article 174 (dissolution of the state legislature), Article 356 (failure of constitutional machinery in-state). Apart from amendments in Constitution, changes are required to be done in the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951, Lok Sabha Business Rules, Vidhan Sabha Business Rules, and other related laws.
No confidence motion should be replaced by Constructive motion of No Confidence as can be seen in the case of Germany. Provisions of Anti-defection Law must also be amended.
Political parties in India should work on a consensus-based approach to implement the system of simultaneous elections. The political parties should take people the public in confidence in for conducting simultaneous elections. They should not look at the One Nation One Election System as a matter of politics. This system needs to be implemented in gradual steps. Political culture in India also needs to be developed. Voters should behave rationally based on their critical evaluation of the political parties and their previous works. This leads to political socialization. As seen from a general view it is good to have simultaneous elections so that the country does not only remain in the election mode and social issues do not spring due to frequent elections. States should be taken in confidence for their fear of losing powers as India has also done the same during the implementation of GST reforms. Adoption of the system of simultaneous elections in India can prove to be beneficial as it has more positive effects with weak negative which can be taken care of during the implementation.
-Kashish Kumar (St. Xavier’s College)