Concept of One Nation, One Election
The concept of ‘One Nation, one election’ was proposed by Prime Minister Modi, in 2014 when he first came to power. The concept was pitched by him again recently during the concluding session of the “80th All India Presiding Officers Conference, 2020”. The PM said, “Elections are held at different places every few months and the impact it has on development works is known to all. Therefore, it is a must to have a deep study and deliberation on “one nation, one election”. The BJP Government also planned and organized a set of 25 webinars to explain and spread awareness about the concept and issues concerning it. The webinars are said to be scheduled over a span of one month and would be attended by party workers, senior leaders, members of academia and legal fraternity.
To break down the concept into simpler terms, the policy implies that elections to all the three tiers of the government would take place together in a synchronized manner. A voter would cast his vote for the electing members of the Parliament, assembly, village panchayats and urban local bodies at the same time in a single day. Due to frequent advocations by Narendra Modi for the conduct of ‘simultaneous elections’, in 2016, Niti Ayog presented a discussion paper titled, “Analysis of simultaneous elections: the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’”.
According to the paper, the pitfalls that can be avoided if this policy comes into force are:
- Suspension of development programmes and welfare activities due to frequent imposition of the Model Code of Conduct, leading to suboptimal governance adversely impacting the design and delivery of public policies and developmental measures
- Huge expenditure by the government and various stakeholders on frequent elections
- Influence of black money
- Engagement of government personnel and security forces for long periods
- Perpetuation of caste, religion and communal issues, etc.
The Government has repeatedly argued that the concept proposed is not new, the lok sabha and state elections took place together from 1951 to 1967 but, due to the dissolution of some state assemblies the cycle was disrupted and came to an end. The concept would not only help India in getting out of the “permanent election mode” but, also bring about a much needed structural change in the mindset that would essentially provide the government with space to implement long-term transformational measures without worrying about the impending elections. It would save time and money, ensure smooth functioning of the government machinery and speedy development work.
On the other hand, opposition parties like Congress and AIADMK have totally opposed the concept and deemed it to be impractical. Opposition leaders not only skipped the all-party meet but also raised concerns of hacking of the EVMs, voter manipulations and called it as a threat to the spirit of cooperative federalism. The demerits are as follows:
- The primary demerit is that such a concept would lead to the destruction of the spirit of cooperative federalism and prove to be a harbinger of a unitary state.
- Local issues will lose momentum and gradually fade out as regional parties will be overshadowed by the national parties in raising their respective concerns.
- It will lead to a delay in the election result simply due to the fact that everything would be happening at once and a significant amount of time would be spent.
- Different elections keep the ministers and executives in power, on their toes and if all elections are conducted together it would decrease the government’s accountability towards the people.
- It would be almost impossible to manage the movement of men, women, material, also in terms of requisitioning.
The Law Commission in its report suggested certain key recommendations for One Nation One Election:
- The leader of the majority party can be elected as the PM or CM by the entire house which in turn would maintain the stability
- In case any government falls midterm, the term of the new government would only be for the remaining period.
- Every no-confidence motion against the Government must be followed by a confidence motion.
The election commission is said to be in favour of the concept. Backing PM’s pitch, the Chief Election Commissioner said that all political parties must discuss and deliberate on the concept by weighing out the pros and cons. For the implementation of such a policy, it is essential for all the parties to be on the same page and bring about the necessary amendments. The country does suffer from the dents of multiple elections but one also cannot deny that such a move would lead to decreased accountability.