One Nation One Election
Syllabus: GS2/ Constitutional Bodies; Government Policies & Interventions
- The ‘one nation one election’ proposal was mooted yet again by the government.
What is the ‘One Nation One Election’ system?
- The current electoral system of the country holds separate polls for the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies in a gap of five years, i.e. when the tenure of the Lower House or the state government concludes, or either of them is dissolved prematurely.
- The term of state assemblies may not necessarily be in sync with one another or that of the Lok Sabha.
- As a result, the mammoth task of conducting elections goes all round the year.
- One Nation One Election proposes that simultaneous elections be held in all states and the Lok Sabha in a gap of five years.
- This will involve the restructuring of the Indian election cycle in a manner that elections to the states and the centre synchronise.
- This would mean that the voters will cast their vote for electing members of the LS and the state assemblies on a single day, at the same time (or in a phased manner as the case may be).
- Previous instances of simultaneous elections:
- Simultaneous polls to states and Lok Sabha is not a newly conceived norm.
- In fact, simultaneous elections have previously been conducted in India in 1952, 1957, 1962 and 1967.
- Soon after, this norm was discontinued following the dissolution of some Legislative Assemblies between 1968 -69.
- Since then, the Indian Electoral system holds polls to Centre and states separately.
Implementation of ‘One Nation One Election’ (ONOE)
- For simultaneous polls, there has to be a political consensus pertaining to the changes in the electoral system. Furthermore, amendments to the Constitution need to be formulated.
- Few of the important Articles that need to be amended for implementation of ‘one nation one election’ are:
- Article 172 and Article 83 deal with the duration of the Houses of Parliament, and guarantee a five-year term to both the elected Lok Sabha and state assemblies, unless they are dissolved sooner.
- Article 85 of the Indian Constitution deals with the powers of the President to summon Parliamentary sessions, not exceeding a gap of more than six months.
- The President also carries the power to adjourn either House of the Parliament and the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.
- Article 356 of the Indian Constitution, comes into action in case of governance and constitutional failure in a state and deals with the President’ Rule.
- Amendments in the People’s Representation Act, 1951(RPA Act 1951) and the Anti Defection Law must be made for organised conduct and stability in both Lok Sabha and state assemblies.
Arguments in favour of Simultaneous Elections/ ONOE
- Government efforts & financial resources: India has had either a State or a national election every year for the last 36 years.
- This devours enormous financial resources and efforts, and the time of the government and political parties is the seeming concern.
- An election held constantly in some part of the country with a ‘model code of conduct’ distracts from governance and leads to policy paralysis.
- Pressure on National Parties: The national parties such as the Congress and the BJP are the ones that may feel the pressure of constant elections because municipal or State elections held in any part of the country involve their national leadership.
- Cost savings: Cost savings is the other reason cited for a concurrent elections proposal.
- Various estimates by the Election Commission, NITI Aayog and the government show that the costs of conducting all State and parliamentary elections in a five-year cycle work out to the equivalent of â‚¹10 per voter per year.
- The NITI Aayog report has also said that when elections are synchronised, it will cost the equivalent of â‚¹5 per voter per year.
- Engagement of security forces: Deployment of security forces is normally throughout the elections and frequent elections take away a portion of such armed police force which could otherwise be better deployed for other internal security purposes.
- Hampering essential services:
- Regular elections hamper the delivery of essential services due to the engagement of public servants, including a large number of teachers, in the election process.
Arguments against Simultaneous Elections/ ONOE
- Only states are contesting: ‘India’ does not have an election every year, one of India’s States does. So, when there are elections in a few States, ‘India’ is not in an election mode; some of India’s States are.
- All of India’s major political parties are not in an election mode, only some are.
- Not a duty of top officials: It is certainly not a virtue for a Central or Cabinet leaders to be relegating the duties of their office to a lower priority such as contesting state or local elections for the electoral interests of their party.
- Attack on India’s federalism: Each of India’s States has different political cultures and parties. Furthermore, this is an attack on and an affront to India’s federalism.
- An elected Chief Minister of a State has the powers to recommend dissolution of their State legislatures and call for early elections.
- Under a ‘one election’ framework, state parties will not have the right to do this.
- These powers will be taken away from the States and only the Union government will have the powers to dictate the election schedule for every State.
- Increase in cost: In the short term, simultaneous elections will increase the costs for deploying far larger numbers of electronic voting machines and control units.
- Political parties and candidates may spend a lot more money on elections than the government but that is not the tax-payers’ money.
- On the contrary, there is economic research to suggest that such election spending by parties and candidates actually benefits the economy and the government’s tax revenues by boosting private consumption and serving as a stimulus.
- Works for presidential system: A single election calendar may work in a presidential system where the survival of the executive is not dependent upon a legislative majority.
- Unworkable & unfeasible: ‘One nation one election’ is a politically unfeasible, administratively unworkable and constitutionally unviable proposition.
- Simultaneous election is an idea whose time has come.However, since the issue is concerned with the federal structure of the Constitution, it needs to be discussed and debated properly across the political spectrum to assuage the concerns of regional parties.
- This will make it easier to implement the idea in the country.
- If simultaneous polls do reduce the duration of conducting polls, political parties will have ample time to address national issues and enhance governance.
Daily Mains Question
[Q] What is the rationale behind implementation of ‘One Nation One Election’ system in India? Analyse the challenges & criticisms to this system.