The Idea of Simultaneous Elections in India

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Recently, the Government formed a high-level committee headed by former President Ram Nath Kovind to “examine and make recommendations for holding simultaneous elections in India” to Lok Sabha and State Assemblies.

About the Simultaneous Elections in India (or “One Nation One Election”)

  • Simultaneous Elections in India’ refer to the idea of holding Lok Sabha (parliamentary) and State legislative assembly elections together, with the aim of reducing the frequency of elections and their associated costs.
  • The Election Commission in its annual report (1983) had recommended that a system should be evolved so that elections could be held simultaneously.
  • The Law Commission (170th Report- 1999) stated that we must go back to the past where the elections to Lok Sabha and all the Vidhan Sabha were held simultaneously. 
  • The 79th Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee (2015) also favored the idea of the simultaneous elections which was reiterated by a NITI Aayog paper in 2017.

About the Committee on the Simultaneous Elections in India

  • Union Law Ministry had named 8 members to the committee, headed by former President, that will examine the issue of simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha, State Assemblies, Municipalities and Panchayats. 
  • Additionally, it will also examine and recommend whether the Constitution amendments would require ratification by the states.
  • The committee will also analyze and recommend possible measures to tackle the scenarios such as the adoption of a no-confidence motion, defection, hung assembly or any other event in case of simultaneous polls.

Committee’s 1st Meeting Outcome

  • Committee had decided to invite recognized National Political Parties, Political Parties having government in States, and other recognized State Political Parties to seek their suggestions and views on the issue of simultaneous elections or one nation one election in the country.

Background

  • Simultaneous elections in India to the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies were held in the years 1951-52, 1957, 1962 and 1967. 
  • Thereafter, the schedule could not be maintained and the elections to the Lok Sabha and the State legislative assembly have still not been realigned.

International Perspective

  • In South Africa, elections to national as well as provincial legislatures are held simultaneously for five years and municipal elections were held two years later.
  • In Sweden, elections to National Legislature and Local Bodies/Municipal Assemblies are held on a fixed date.

In Favour of One Nation One Election

  • It will reduce the huge expenditure incurred for conducting separate elections every year.
  • The problem of frequent elections leads to imposition of MCC over prolonged periods of time which affects the normal governance. Thus simultaneous elections overcome such issue.
  • Simultaneous elections leads to overcome the disruption of normal public life affected by frequent elections for certain predetermined period of time.
  • Simultaneous elections will free the crucial manpower which is often deployed for prolonged periods on election duties
  • The term of the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha would normally commence and expire on a particular date.
  • The focus on governance will increase, instead of being constantly in election mode.
  • According to the Law Commission, it raises voter participation. 
  • It will raise the focus of administrative machinery on nation to remain consistently focused on developmental effort.
  • This system will lead to reduce the disruption of essential services i.e., reduce policy paralysis.

Against One Nation One Election

  • Hamper federalism: It undermines the fundamental principle of federalism, which constitutes a basic component of our Constitutional structure.
  • Logistical Challenges: All states and the central government faces massive logistical challenges including coordinating the schedules, resources etc.
  • Regional Variations: Synchronizing elections may not account for these regional variations adequately.
  • Financial Implications: Conducting elections is expensive and require significant resources, like Manpower.
  • Issue of dissolution: Prematurely dissolution on account of a vote of no-confidence.
  • Holding simultaneous elections for the whole country has many practical difficulties for the Election Commission.
  • It raises the question, if the ruling party holds an absolute majority in all 29 states. Thus, whether new elections would be required. 
  • Disadvantage for regional parties: It will help the dominant national party or the incumbent at the Centre. 

How to Synchronize Simultaneous Elections in India?

  • The law Commission Recommendation (2018) for restoring simultaneous elections in India: –
  • According to The Law Commission report 2018 – appropriate amendments to the Constitution, the Representation of the People Act 1951, the Rules of Procedure of Lok Sabha and State Assemblies is required.
  • Further commission also recommended that at least 50% of the states should ratify the constitutional amendments.
    • Example: – Amendments required in five Articles of the Constitution, namely Articles 83, 85, 172, 174, and 356.
  • The no-confidence motion can be replaced with a constructive vote of no-confidence through amendments in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha rules of business.
  • Anti-Defection law may be rightfully diluted to prevent stalemate in case of a hung Assembly or Parliament.
  • Statutory limit of six months for issuance of notification of general elections can be extended for securing flexibility as a one-time measure.

Measures for Simultaneous Elections in India

  • Pilot Projects: India can consider conducting pilot projects in a few states to test the feasibility and gather data on the challenges and benefits.
  • Constitutional Amendments: If succeed in pilot project, the government can amend the Constitution to allow for simultaneous elections 
  • Election Finance Reforms: Implement financial reforms to manage the increased cost like separate election fund, promoting transparency in political funding etc.
  • Effective Governance: Strict rules and regulations can be setup to ensure the duties and responsibilities of the elected representatives during their term rather than preparing for the next election.
  • Public Awareness: Educate the public about the benefits of simultaneous elections such as reduced campaign expenditure, less disruption etc.
  • Political Consensus: Achieving a consensus among political parties is crucial to formulate a workable plan for simultaneous elections.
  • Staggered Terms: One way to address the regional variations is to implement staggered terms for state legislatures. This would ensure that not all states go to polls at once and allow for a more manageable election process.

Conclusively it can be said that,

To sum up it can be stated that simultaneous elections in India offer the potential for cost savings and reduced political disruption, but they come with significant logistical, constitutional, and governance challenges. A gradual, well-thought-out approach with the involvement of all political parties and stakeholders is essential to successfully implement this concept in the world’s largest democracy.

Source: The Hindu

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