Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 06 October 2023

One Nation, One Election

Source: By The Financial Express

The Centre constituted a committee headed by former president Ram Nath Kovind to explore the possibility of “one nation, one election” in the country. The move comes a day after the government called a Special Session of Parliament, the agenda for which is under wraps.

Assembly elections are due in five states – Madhya PradeshTelangana, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Rajasthan – in November- December and they will be followed by the Lok Sabha elections in May-June next year.

‘One Nation, One Election’ is no new

Notably, ‘One Nation, One Election’ is not a new concept, and was in practice till 1967. India had simultaneous polls before — general elections and elections to all state assemblies were held together in 1951-5219571962 and 1967. The Lok Sabha and state legislatures went to polls together in 1952 and 1957. However, the cycle was broken in Kerala, in July 1959, when the government of Jawaharlal Nehru used Article 356 of the Constitution to dismiss the government of the Communist E M S Namboodiripad. After the elections of April 1957, EMS became the CM and Kerala voted for a new five-year Assembly again in February 1960.

Later, in 1967, the Congress suffered setbacks in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Orissa, Madras and Kerala. Following this, the governments of the Samyukta Vidhayak Dal, comprising the Bharatiya Kranti Dal, Samyukta Socialist Party, Praja Socialist Party, Swatantra Party, Bharatiya Jana Sangh and defectors from the Congress, were formed.

There were rampant defections, and many Assemblies were dissolved before their terms were over, resulting in separate Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. At present, Assembly Legislative elections of Andhra PradeshOdishaArunachal Pradesh and Sikkim are held together with the Lok Sabha elections.

The inception of the idea of ‘One Nation, One Election’

In 1983, the Election Commission of India (ECI) suggested simultaneous elections. In 2003, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee took up the matter with Congress president Sonia Gandhi. However, there wasn’t much headway. Later, in 2010, LK Advani said that he had discussed the matter with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Over the years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been advocating for the idea of simultaneous Lok Sabha and state assembly polls. It was also one of the components of the BJP’s election manifesto for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Those supporting the ‘One Nation, One Election’ say:

If implemented it will bring down the overall expenditure on the electoral process, and will limit all elections to a single season.

It is often argued that once the Model Code of Conduct comes into force, following the announcement of elections, it comes in the way of the government announcing projects or policy plans.

Simultaneous elections will likely boost voter turnout, making it convenient for the electorate to cast the ballot at once.

Simultaneous polls could also help save time and money, and governments could get five stable years to focus on governance instead of winning polls.

There is also the burden of crucial manpower that is deployed during the election season.

Those opposing ‘One Nation, One Election’ say:

Holding just one mega election would be too complex an exercise in a huge and complex country like India.

There are also logistical issues, as simultaneous election would require twice as many electronic voting machines and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail machines as are used now.

Simultaneous elections would also benefit the party that is dominant in the national arena and would cost the regional parties.

The Constitution also fundamentally doesn’t allow simultaneous polls. Five articles in the Constitution and the Representation of People Act (1951) would have to be amended, and for this, every recognised state and national party would have to agree to the change.

Critics also argue that voters may end up voting on national issues even for state elections, which would benefit the larger national parties and marginalise the regional parties. Additionally, a wave for any prominent national figure or over an issue may give unbridled power to rule.

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