Debate the suitability of the idea of “one nation, one election” to Indian polity.
The debate has been going on around the country regarding ‘One nation, One election’. The concept actually means is that simultaneous election be held in all states and the Lok Sabha in a gap of five years. The idea behind it is envisaging an amendment in the entire electoral system of the country where elections to the states and Centre synchronise. The idea is not new but in fact India has followed ‘one nation one election’ in the past and elections in the year 1952, 1957, 1962 and 1967 were based on this concept only.
IDEA OF “One Nation, One Election”
A. Constitutional Validity:
- Constitution does not clearly say whether we can or we cannot have a policy of ‘one nation, one election.
- However, having Lok Sabha and state assembly elections at the same time might violate some of the provisions of the constitution.
- Article 83(2) and Article 172 of the Indian constitution deals with the tenure of Lok Sabha and state assembly respectively and says that it shall be for 5 years unless dissolved earlier.
- However, the state assemblies can be solved for specific reasons only in accordance with Article 356 of the constitution and dissolving the assembly for simultaneous elections would be a violation of the constitution.
B. Violation of the federal structure:
- Since India is a federal country with a strong central government, some leaders say that ‘one nation, one election’ is a violation of the federal structure.
- The holding of elections would require an amendment in the constitution and for this support from both the houses is needed.
- Without the amendment it would not be possible to dissolve state governments in all states and hold simultaneous elections.
ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT OF SIMULTANEOUS ELECTION
- Cost Saving: Simultaneous polls will reduce enormous costs involved in separate elections.
- Good Governance: The system will help ruling parties focus on governance instead of being constantly in election mode.
- Increased Participation: Simultaneous polls will boost voter turnout, according to the Law Commission.
- Less Disruption in Public Life: Frequent elections lead to disruption of normal public life and impact the functioning of essential services. Holding of political rallies disrupts road traffic and also leads to noise pollution.
- Delay in Development Projects: Repeated elections of state mean implementation of Model Code of Conduct (MCC) again and again. This means that there is a delay in smoothly carrying out developmental projects or schemes leading to incomplete or delayed work adding to the problem of the citizens
ARGUMENT AGAINST SIMULTANEOUS ELECTION
- Influence voters choice: National and state issues are different, and holding simultaneous elections is likely to affect the judgment of voters. National issues will get priority over states.
- Reduced Accountability: Since elections will be held once in five years, it will reduce the government’s accountability to the people. Repeated elections keep legislators on their toes and increases accountability.
- Against the federalism: When an election in a State is postponed until the synchronised phase, President’s rule will have to be imposed in the interim period in that state. This is against the democracy and federalism.
- Lack of resources: The new process will require manpower, security forces and machinery (EVMs and VVPATs) on a humongous scale.
- Keep politicians in check: Politicians remain in check because of frequent upcoming elections as they know they will be held accountable for the actions of their party members and when the elections will be held simultaneously they will become reluctant to deliver their responsibility.
- Indian voters are not mature / informed enough to differentiate between the voting choices for State Assembly and Lok Sabha in case simultaneous elections are held.
Elections impact everyone in the entire country – citizens, businesses, administrative machinery, constitutional institutions, political parties, leaders and so on. Eventual implementation of this measure would not only require significant Constitutional and Statutory amendments, it would also require significant consensus amongst the key stakeholders. Without a general consensus and wider acceptance, its intent and efficacy could be compromised.