What is the ‘One Nation One Election’ system?
- One Nation One Election proposes that simultaneous elections be held in all states and the Lok Sabha in a gap of five years. The idea behind it is envisaging an amendment in the entire electoral system of the country where elections to the states and Centre synchronise.
- Listed voters shall cast their votes at the same time and the same day for both Lok Sabha and state assemblies.
- 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.
Early explorations of the idea
- The idea of reverting to simultaneous polls was mooted in the annual report of the Election Commission in 1983.
- In 2015, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, headed by E M Sudarsana Natchiappan, prepared a report on holding simultaneous elections. The report said that simultaneous elections would help to reduce:
- 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.
What are the arguments in favour of simultaneous elections?
- It is principally an argument for efficiency.
- The Election Commission implements a Model Code of Conduct before every poll that lays down how parties and candidates should conduct themselves during the electoral process. To prevent parties in government from taking unfair advantage of the administrative apparatus under their control, the code prevents the announcement of new schemes and policies.
- By implementing simultaneous polls, the argument is that the time lost to the model code would come down.
- NITI Aayog in one of its reports argued that from the perspective of the Government, simultaneous elections would reduce the cost of holding elections, and limit all elections to a single season.
- It is also argued that frequent elections also prevent governments from thinking of long-term policies. Simultaneous elections would fix this. If simultaneous polls do reduce the duration of conducting polls, political parties will have ample time to address national issues and enhance governance.
- Simultaneous polls will boost voter turnout, according to the Law Commission.
Arguments against ‘One Nation One Election’
- The primary cause of concern amongst parties that have opposed simultaneous polling is that of Constitutional difficulties and anti-federal consequences.
- It is argued that simultaneous polls could help parties that have a multi-state presence.
- A study by the public-policy think tank IDFC Institute analysed electoral data from four Lok Sabha elections – 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014. The data analysis shows that on average, there is a 77% chance that the Indian voter will vote for the same party for both the state and Centre when elections are held simultaneously, a trend that the study calls an “undesirable impact on voter behaviour”.
- As a result, its critics feel holding polls simultaneously will undermine Indian federalism.
- The other argument is that since elections will be held once in five years, it will reduce the government’s accountability to the people. It would place less pressure on governments to work for the voter.
- 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 logistical nightmare — requiring, for example, about twice as many electronic voting machines and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail machines as are used now.
- Beyond political parties going against this proposal, the main task of executing the ‘one nation one election’ theory lies with unavoidable Constitutional problems.
- Few of the important Articles that need to be amended for implementation of ‘one nation one election’ are:
- Article 83 and Article 172 deal with the duration of the Houses of Parliament, and guarantees 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.
How can simultaneous elections be achieved?
- Under the Westminster system of government that India follows, legislatures do not have fixed lifetimes. They can either be dissolved by the government, which can call for fresh elections, or expire in case a government falls and no other government can be formed.
- In order to achieve simultaneous elections, drastic changes would be required in India’s governance structure.
- One proposal by the Law Commission in 2018 was to introduce the concept of “constructive vote of no-confidence” where a government can only be voted out by a legislature only if the House has confidence in another government that can take its place.
- The law panel document suggested that in case a government fell mid-term, the term of the new government would be for the remaining period and not for a fresh five-year term.
- Another proposal involves either extending or curtailing the lifetimes of state assemblies in order to make them coincide with the Lok Sabha elections.
Why in News?
- Former President Ram Nath Kovind, who heads the high level committee examining the idea of holding simultaneous elections — which the Union government has termed ‘One Nation, One Election’ — asserted that polls being held concurrently at the Union and State level is in national interest.