The Narendra Modi government has called for a joint and special session of Parliament from the 18th of September 2023 to the 22nd of September 2023. What made this announcement more exciting is that the government, as of today, has not announced the agenda for this session. Because of this, there are many theories making rounds in Indian political and media circles, and one of those theories is the discussion and declaration of the One Nation One Election policy.
The government just a few days back announced a committee under the chairmanship of the former President of India Ramnath Kovind to discuss and decide on guidelines for the One Nation One Election bill. It was evident that this committee will take its own time to decide hence, to discuss in this joint and special session of Parliament is not possible. But still, let us check out both sides of the coin that will definitely come into play in the near future.
Members of the committee for One Nation One Election
- Ramnath Kovind – Chairman and Former President of India
- Amit Shah – Minister of Home and Co-operation
- Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury – Leader of the largest party in Lok Sabha
- Ghulam Nabi Azad – Former Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha
- NK Singh – Former Chairman, 15th Finance Commission
- Subhash C Kashyap – Former Chief Secretory, Lok Sabha
- Harish Salve – Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India
- Sanjay Kothari – Former Chief Vigilance Commissioner
Benefits and Drawbacks of One Nation One Election
First, the benefits…
- Will bring down the cost for elections: It is obvious that if both Lok Sabha and Assembly Elections of the entire nation are held simultaneously, then it will bring down the cost in a big way. As per one estimate, Rs. 60,000 crore was spent only on the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections. So, if the elections are held together, then it will bring down the cost.
- Will increase the productivity of administrators and security forces: Currently, there are elections at every moment in one or more states of the country. This keeps administrators and our security forces busy, and thus that weakens their productivity. By bringing One Nation One Elections, this aspect will have a positive effect on them.
- Various Governments can focus on development: If there are Parliament, Assembly, and Local Bodies elections held every alternate year, the governments of multiple states and especially the central government can’t focus on the development part because the modal code of conduct is implemented most of the time. If elections are done and dusted in one go, then for the rest of the four and a half years, governments can focus on development and policy implementation only.
- Significant cut-down in the number of election personnel: Along with administrators and security forces, government employees and teachers are deputed during the voting and counting of votes. If there are simultaneous elections, then these personnel will have to depute only once in five years, and that will help them in a big way.
- Public properties will remain free: Whenever there are elections, be it Lok Sabha, Assembly, or local bodies, properties like schools, colleges, and government libraries are used for voting and counting votes. Such use will be reduced to only once in five years, so for the rest of the time, these properties can be used for their primary purpose.
- Political parties can evaluate the candidates in a better way: Because elections happen so frequently, the political parties may also be not able to give tickets to proper candidates as they don’t have the time to evaluate their work and ability to win. Once all the elections are clubbed together, the parties have good enough time to do proper homework on the evaluation of their own leader and prospective candidates, and that may give us better candidates to vote for.
- Voters’ fatigue will decline: If we take the example of Gujarat, every two and half years, there is a big election. In 2021 Gujarat had local bodies elections; in 2022, assembly elections and now, in 2024, there will be Lok Sabha elections. This brings fatigue in the voter’s mind as he must vote every alternate year. But if there is a One Nation One Election, he has to go once every five years, and this will up the voting percentage, which is necessary for any democracy.
Now, the drawbacks…
- Local issues may be forgotten: Lok Sabha elections are always the big thing in India. So if there are simultaneous elections, then during the campaign, there is a possibility that local issues will be forgotten. This will definitely be a cause of concern not only for the ruling party but also for the opposition and the voters.
- Regional parties may not compete with national parties: The canvass and budget of national parties are so huge that they can arrange strategies and make big expenses for both Lok Sabha and Assembly elections together. But the regional parties may not match that big scale, which may create an imbalance in the entire election process, which is not good for any democracy.
- The voter may be inclined to vote for the national party: Because Lok Sabha elections are clubbed with Assembly elections, the voter can vote for the national party and not the regional party because national issues will attract him more than regional issues.
Hurdles before One Nation One Election
- Regional parties will voice their opposition to this amendment, and they can’t be ignored as India has many regional parties that have a larger say in their respective states.
- Even major and national parties like Congress will not agree, bringing a stalemate in passing future bills on this issue. The leader of Congress in Lok Sabha, Adhir Rajnah Chowdhury, has already declined to be part of the committee we have mentioned at the start of this article.
- The EVMs have a lifespan of 15 years; thus, if the simultaneous elections are implanted, they can be used only greatly, and new EVMs will have a hefty price tag.
- Amendments to the Constitution and Representation of the People Act (1951) are required. These amendments will also have to get passed in both houses of Parliament. Then, in all state assemblies of India, this looks hard, looking at the current political scenario.
- What about hung houses? What if a central government or a state government, in future, loses a vote of confidence during the middle of its term? How can an election be avoided in such a situation? This issue needs to be addressed with an acceptable solution.
- To keep the One Nation One Election going smoothly, Article 356 needs another look as it allows the central government to dismiss any state government if it feels that the constitutional machinery has a breakdown in a particular state.
There are more benefits than drawbacks to the One Nation One Election policy. A big democracy like the USA also has this policy and is running successfully. But India has a different political flavour; thus, it will be challenging for any government to implement this policy, and that too with the agreement of all the political parties and states.
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