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One Nation One Election

Introduction

India is called the largest democratic country of the world despite being the second most populous country because the most populous country china is the communist country. India being ruled by various kings and emperors and colonized by the Europeans for centuries, India became a democratic nation post its independence in the year 1947. Thereafter, the citizens of India were given the right to cast their vote and elect their leaders.  In India the Parliamentary and State Assemblies elections are held every 5 years to elect the central and state governments. India is appreciated worldwide for its successful democratic system but there are still miles to go and certain loopholes on which government needs to work upon.

But, it is merely observed that elections are a whole year process in the India. Government spends a lot of money, time and energy on the conduct of different elections. This is the reason our honourable Prime Minister Sh. Narendra Modi gave the push for the idea of “ONE NATION ONE ELECTION” system in India in 2016. Ever since, there have been widespread discussions on the same.

“ONE NATION ONE ELECTION” ponders the light upon simultaneous polls. Simultaneous polls is defined as structuring the Indian election cycle in a manner such that elections to Lok Sabha and State Assemblies are synchronized together.

However, simultaneous polls are not new to India. The first General Election to the House of People and all State Legislative Assemblies were held simultaneously in 1951-52. This practice continued in three subsequent General Elections held. They were the norm until 1967. But following dissolution of some legislative assemblies in 1968 and 1969 and that of Lok Sabha in December 1970, elections to State Assemblies and Parliament have been held separately. Fresh elections were held in 1971. Thus, the first, second, and third lok sabha enjoyed full five year terms. The term of the 5th   lok Sabha was extended till 1977 under Article 352. After that, the 8th, 10th, 14th, 15th, lok sabha completed its full five year terms. The 6th, 7th, 9th, 11th, 12th, 13th lok sabha were dissolved prematurely. As a result of premature dissolutions of terms of both the lok sabha and various state legislative assemblies, for the last 48 years, the cycle of simultaneous elections has been disturbed. The idea of reverting to simultaneous polls was mooted in the annual report of the Election Commission in 1983. The Law Commission’s report also referred to it in 1999.

The recent push came ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls in the BJP manisfesto. After Mr. Modi floated the idea once again in 2016, the Niti Ayog prepared a working paper on the subject in January 2017. Honourable Prime Minister Sh. Narendra Modi called upon an all party meeting to discuss about the “ONE NATION ONE ELECTION”. He told in the meeting that a committee would be set up to take a close look at the proposal to hold simultaneous elections in the country. Elections to local bodies, which is a state subject, are not included in it. Taking it a step further, the law commission on August 30, 2018 submitted a 177 pages draft report to the government of India endorsing the proposal. It even recommended amendments to the Indian constitution, the Representation of the Peoples Act 1951 and the rules of procedure of lok sabha and state assemblies so as to enable holding simultaneous polls. The commission also suggested that atleast  50% of the states should ratify the constitutional amendments. It suggested thereafter, that elections to lok sabha and state assemblies may be held together from 2024.  In the working paper that the Law Commission brought out in April 2018, it is said that at least “five Constitutional recommendations” would be required to get this off the ground. The final decision on holding simultaneous elections is yet to be taken.

Thereafter, there were two proposals given to conduct simultaneous elections along with the 17th lok sabha elections. However, both didn’t materialise[1].

Proposal 1[2]

To shift to simultaneous polls in a phased manner, where general elections, 12 state assemblies

(which by themselves face elections in late 2018 or 2019) and a union territory may be synchronised in 2019, as the rest of the states are in the middle of five year terms.

For such a synchronisation to happen, besides political consensus and extension of term uto 6 months in some states, amendments to the constitution have to be made. Elections to the remaining state legislative assemblies and union territory with legislature will be synchronised by the end of 2021. Thereafter, elections to the lok sabha , all the State legislative assemblies and union territories (with legislature) will be held simultaneously from 2024.

Proposal 2[3]

To synchronise in two batches.

First, elections to the 12 state legislative assemblies and one union territory would be synchronised with elections to the lok sabha in 2019.

Next, elections to the remaining state legislative assemblies will be synchronised with that of one union territory by the end of 2021. This makes elections across the country synchronised in such a manner that they will be held twice every five years.

Why should we have simultaneous elections ?

  • Reduced expenditure incurred for conduct of separate elections every year. Election commission had pegged the expenditure for simultaneous elections at Rs.4500crores (2014 lok sabha Rs.3870 crores and Bihar elections, 2015 alone cost the government Rs.300 crores)
  • Simultaneous elections help ruling parties to focus on governance instead of being constantly on election mode.
  • Elections lead to impositions of model code of conduct in the poll bound state/area. It puts on hold the development programmes and activities of the union and state governments, in the poll bound state it even affects normal day-to-day governance. This often leads to policy paralysis and government deficit.
  • 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.
  • Elections are also polarizing events which perpetuate caste, religion and communal issues because candidates are often, ‘forced to talk politically’ for the sake of electoral benefits.
  • Also, simultaneous elections will boost voter turn out, according to the law commission.

Why can’t we have simultaneous elections ?

  • National and state issues are different, and holding simultaneous elections is likely to affect the judgement of voters.
  • Simultaneous elections will comprise India of its federal structure.
  • Some political parties argue that it may influence the voters behaviour in a manner that voters may end up voting on national issues even for state elections and this may lead to larger national parties winning both state and lok sabha elections thereby marginalizing regional parties.
  • 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 will be a blow to democracy and federalism.
  • Since elections will be held once in five year, it will reduce the governmen’s accountability to the people. Repeated elections keep legislators on their toes and increase accountability.
  • The deployment of security forces and officials in 700,000 polling stations located in widely varying geographic and climatic conditions, all the same time is going to be extremely difficult. It is precisely these problems that begun to cause elections to be held in multiple phases and on different dates even in the same state.

Conclusion

“ONE NATION ONE ELECTION” is a good option for India but its feasibility needs to be thoroughly examined by involving all the stakeholders in debate and discussions. Also, the desired goal of having “ONE NATION ONE ELECTION” every five year cannot be achieved overnight. It can only be attained in phases.

Suggestions

There is always a tomorrow and a nation to run and there are much more certain issues which government needs to look upon currently like corruption, illiteracy, education system, basic sanitation, health care system, poverty, pollution, women’s safety, infrastructure, unemployment, agriculture distress, rise in global protectionism and depleting economy rather than highlighting the issue of , “ONE NATION ONE ELECTION” as it will take a lot of time and for achieving this, certain amendments need to be done in Indian Constitution  in Article 356, Article 83, Article 85, Article 172, Article 174.

“THE NATION SHOULD MOVE TOWARDS

ONE TARGET, ONE DIRECTION,

ONE INTENTION AND ONE DECISION.”

[1] https://prsindia.org

[2] Referred from The Hindu.

[3] Referred from The Hindu.

This article is authored by Yashika Ahuja, student of BBA.LLB at Fairfield Institute of Management and Technology, Kapashera, New Delhi.

Also Read – Right Of Not To Vote (NOTA)

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