What does “One Nation, One Election” mean?
The idea of “One Nation, One Election” means conducting the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies’ elections together, once in five years.
This excludes elections to Panchayats and state municipalities as well as by-elections.
Currently, elections to the state assemblies and the Lok Sabha are held separately — that is whenever the incumbent government’s five-year term ends or whenever it is dissolved due to various reasons. This applies to both the state legislatures and the Lok Sabha.
But the idea of “One Nation, One Election” envisages a system where elections to all states and the Lok Sabha will have to be held simultaneously.
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).
At present, Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim are held together with the Lok Sabha elections.
India started with Simultaneous Election System.
India did start out with simultaneous elections. Lok Sabha and state legislatures went to polls together in 1952 and 1957.
The cycle was first broken in Kerala, in July 1959, when the union government used Article 356 of the Constitution to dismiss the government of the Communist E M S Namboodiripad.
EMS had become Chief Minister after the elections of April 1957 and, Kerala voted for a new five-year Assembly again in February 1960.
In the 1967 elections, the Congress suffered setbacks in Bihar, UP, Rajasthan, Punjab, West Bengal, Orissa, Madras and Kerala. In these states coalition governments were formed.
The governments were unstable, there were rampant defections, and many of these Assemblies were dissolved before their terms were over, resulting in the separation of the election cycles of many states from that of the Lok Sabha.
Arguments for and against:
There are arguments for both seeking and opposing simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and all State Assemblies across India.
One Nation, One Election would reduce the cost of holding elections, and limit all elections to a single season.
At present, elections happen somewhere or the other almost all the time, and it is often argued that the Model Code of Conduct gets in the way of the government announcing projects or policy plans for the benefit of the people.
On the other hand, critics argue that holding just one mega election would be too complex an exercise to tackle in a country as large and as complex as India.
It would be a very difficult exercise — requiring, for example, about twice as many electronic voting machines and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail machines as are used now.
There is also the view that simultaneous elections would benefit the party that is nationally dominant at the cost of smaller regional players.
The biggest question is that what will happen if Government in a State losses majority ? In a state particularly, If government losses majority the next step is to impose President Rule if another stable option is not available. Now to continue President Rule till the next elections, which cannot be called before stipulated time, will not be a feasible option.
Even the central government could fall — since 1952, seven were dissolved ahead of schedule (in 1971, 1980, 1984, 1991, 1998, 1999 and 2004).
The idea of one election can take away the regional element of state elections, and allow national leaders to overshadow regional ones. The idea may provide an upper hand to political Party in Power. However the argument is countered by the fact that in 2019, Lok sabha election was won by BJP, which was already in power. At the same time election to state assembly in odisha was also held, where Biju Janta Dal won with a huge majority over Any other party.
Previous Exploration of the Idea to Hold Simultaneous Elections.
1983, the Election Commission had suggested simultaneous elections.
1999, The Law Commission headed by Justice B P Jeevan Reddy, in its 170th Report, Supported the Idea.
2003, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee took up the matter with leaders of other parties.
2015, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, headed by E M Sudarsana Natchiappan, prepared a report on the ‘Feasibility of Holding Simultaneous Elections to House of People (Lok Sabha) and State Legislative Assemblies’. The Report supported the Idea based on following arguments :
The massive expenditure that is currently incurred for the conduct of separate elections,
The policy paralysis that results from the imposition of the Model Code of Conduct during election time,
The impact on the delivery of essential services and,
The burden on crucial manpower that is deployed during election time.
Road Map To Hold Simultaneous Elections : The Law Commission Report headed by Justice B S Chauhan (2018).
In a draft report on August 30, 2018, the Law Commission headed by Justice B S Chauhan said : simultaneous elections could not be held within the existing framework of the Constitution. “…Appropriate amendments to the Constitution, the Representation of the People Act 1951, and the Rules of Procedure of Lok Sabha and state Assemblies” would be required.
The Commission recommended that all elections due in a calendar year should be conducted together.
To deal with the disruption that a no-confidence motion, if carried, may cause, the Commission recommended that the “no-confidence motion” should be replaced with a “constructive vote of no-confidence” through appropriate amendments, and that a government may be replaced only if there is confidence in an alternative government.
The Commission recommended three alternatives to synchronise elections in India.
The Commission recommended advancing or postponing election timings in certain states, such that elections to all state assemblies and Lok Sabha may be held together in 2019.
It recommended the following changes to the election timings of other state assemblies:
In the States where, the Assembly elections are due before Lok Sabha elections: The term of these assemblies may be extended to synchronise it with Lok Sabha elections, by amending the Constitution.
Assembly elections due immediately after Lok Sabha elections can be held with Lok Sabha elections, if the states voluntarily dissolve their assemblies earlier, or by operation of law.
For the remaining 16 states and Puducherry, elections may be conducted towards the end of 2021. The term of these assemblies will be 30 months or till June 2024, whichever is earlier.
This will require a constitutional amendment since the terms of different assemblies will either need to be curtailed or extended.
Thereafter, elections to Lok Sabha and state assemblies may be held together from 2024.
If assembly elections are held in 2019 and 2021, as described above, then elections will only need to be conducted twice in five years.
If simultaneous elections cannot be conducted, then the Commission recommended that all elections falling due in a calendar year should be conducted together.
The timing of such election should be conducive to all state legislatures involved and the Lok Sabha (if dissolved earlier).
This option will also require amendments to the Constitution and the Representation of the People Act, 1951.