“One nation, one election is not just a matter of debate, but it is the need of India”- it takes one statement to usher innumerable debates in the country, in spite of the Prime Minister apprising not to. 26th November is marked as the Constitution day and Hon’le Prime minister also addressed the All India Presiding Officers conference on the same day where he brought into everyone’s brain box, the concept of ‘one nation, one election i.e. a single voter list for all polls that take place in our country on an average and also called on to the presiding officers to comprehend the language of statute books and derive an easier process segregate supernumerary laws related to elections. But first, let’s see what the fuss all about is.
One nation, One election
In India, we have the concept of general elections for both Lok Sabha and State Assemblies at a time gap of approx 5 years. Except for these elections, other state assemblies conduct elections in the states separately throughout the year, anytime the incumbent government completes off its five years of term or even if it dissolves due to other reasons, it calls for another election which ultimately puts a huge burden on the government exchequer. As a result, the terms of Legislative assemblies and the Lok sabha are never seen harmonised with each other (in the entire history). Let’s recall the year when Rajasthan went into the election mode - 2018 and then comes Tamil Nadu which would enter that phase in the coming year, by that time Rajasthan govt. would be half way through its journey of 5 years. Hence, one nation, one election would mean the voters be required to cast their votes for the election of members of the Lok Sabha and the State assemblies on a single day, more precisely, in a single time.
How to make it happen?
Certainly, there were two proposals made for the purpose. First was to postpone the simultaneous polls in a phased manner so that the General elections, 12 state assemblies (where elections held in 2018 or 2019) and a Union territory to be synced in 2019 and the other states in the middle of their 5 years. Quite a tough job! But in order to make it happen an extension of the term for almost 6 months in some states and most importantly, a political consensus has to take place. The major task lies with the amendments to be made in the Constitution of India. Second proposal was to adapt sync in two batches. First, 12th State legislative assemblies and one Union territory could be synced with 2019 Lok sabha elections. And then, the remaining states could be synced with that of the Union territory by the end of 2021 so elections would be held twice a year. But both the suggestions couldn’t be materialised.
Why one nation one election?
Well, the answer to this question is quite a detailed one. First and foremost, the most visible and evident benefit would be saving of government money. Let’s look at it like this; there are 4120 MLAs in 31 states and territories. The max limit of expenditure allowed is 28 lacs which mean if every state and territory undergoes election at once, the total cost would be around 11 billion, so one state one election is going to keep a check on the total expenses of poll, party etc.
Second benefit would be uninterrupted development works which was also mentioned by the Prime Minister. When the election model of conduct comes into practice, the inauguration of new project has to majorly cease for a time period not assured. Hence, it is going to be eliminated and there would be continuity in policies and programmes of centre and state.
Third and most important benefit, smooth functioning of government machinery. During elections, government deploy huge manpower and machinery to ensure the free and fair happening of elections in the state or country. So the educational institutes engaged in such elections can go back to their usual functioning and general public would be at ease.
Last but not the least, it is seen usually that in order to gain shorter political gains from an election, politicians refrain from taking long term decisions and if elections are not conducted annually then the government is not required to woo the public by luring them into schemes.
Why no one nation one election?
There are people and groups arguing against it as well. Local issues are not going to come into the lights since the state parties bring them into attention. Now that state parties would join the national ones, the local issues are going to remain unheard. Next, the regional parties could find it difficult to compete with the national parties when it comes to the amount of expenditures and since assembly elections are related to local issues so it could create a problem. Currently, the regional parties stand for the demand for conducting elections through ballet papers and if the same process is followed for all the elections then it could be quite time taking. And then comes the major problem i.e. the constitutional problems because of the democratic set up of the country if the elections are conducted and a government doesn’t gets a majority then there could be chances of forming an alliance which can fall before 5 years. So there could be chances of re-election.
One nation one election - yes or no?
The benefits are quite strong but the disadvantages are quite undeniable. However, they could be covered if some elements are added and some changes to be made like amendments required in some Articles like 83 i.e. duration of Houses of Parliament, 85 i.e. dissolution of Lok sabha by president, 172 relating to state legislature, 174 with the state assemblies and 356 i.e. president’s rule in the state and we could be good to go, but the changes aren’t a simple task so the future of one nation one election is quite dubious.