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One Nation, One Election – The Way Ahead

- 03 Oct 2019

Introduction

India is known to be the largest democratic country in the world since China is a communist country. The General Elections for the Lok Sabha and State Assembly are held at a gap of five years. But it can be observed that election in India is a process which lasts throughout a given year. Presently, the situation is that, elections are held in one or another part of the country whether for Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha or of the Local bodies. So, it keeps the political parties, the Election commission and police machinery busy throughout the year in election activities and spends a lot of money, time and energy in the conduct of the same. Due to this the function of the government machinery comes to stand still during such time due to Model Code of Conduct. It also puts huge burden on the government exchequer. Therefore, the present government is planning to conduct the elections in the synchronized manner by the way of ‘One Nation One Election’ or ‘Simultaneous Election’ system.

Concept of One Nation One Election or Simultaneous Election

The term Simultaneous Election imply that the election to all the three tiers of the constitutional institutions takes place in a synchronised and co-ordinated fashion[1]. It refers to the system where the elections of Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and the Local Bodies are held at the same time.

The third tier of the constitutional institution consists of Gram Panchayats, Block Panchayats and District Panchayats in the country which is estimated to be about 2.51 lakhs[2]. Since it is the state subject and due to large number synchronisation to the third tier of the government is even though not impossible but extremely challenging and difficult to align election schedule with that of the Lok Sabha and the State Legislative Assembly.

History

The concept of simultaneous elections is not new in Indian context. After the Independence from 1951-1967 the elections to the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assembly were held simultaneously. But the same was disrupted for the first time in 1968-69, when the fourth Lok Sabha was prematurely got dissolved due to various reasons and fresh elections were held in 1971. The term of the 5th Lok Sabha was extended till 1977 due to proclamation of emergency. The 6th,7t,9th,11th,12th and 13th Lok Sabha were also prematurely dissolved. The same was also faced by various State Legislative Assemblies over a period of time and since then the system of Simultaneous Election came to an end.

Recommendations

The system of Simultaneous Election, after its discontinuation in the 1967-68, the same was recommended by various committees.

The First Annual Report of the Election Commission of India in 1983 recommended holding of simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies[3].

The 170th Report of the Law Commission of India, ‘Reform of Electoral Laws’, 1999 suggested that Holding separate election to Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies should be an exception and not the rule.

The Department related Parliament Standing Committee on Personnel, Public grievances, Law and Justice, in its 79th report submitted in December 2015 on ‘Feasibility of Holding Simultaneous Elections to the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies’ gave several justification for holding simultaneous elections.

Working paper by NITI AOne Nation, One Election – The Way Aheadayog in January 2017 titled “Analysis of Simultaneous Elections: The “What”, “Why” and “How” suggested proposal for the conduct of elections to the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies simultaneously.

Feasibility

Before moving forward with the options and means by which simultaneous elections can be implemented it is necessary to look into the feasibility of the same. A committee was constituted by the Prime Minister for the same. In which several factors were examined such as Financial Implications, Logistical issues, Effect of Imposition of Model Code of Conduct, etc.

For conducting the Simultaneous Elections some issues need to be taken care of such as;

-        Buying 23 Lakh EVM’s and 25 Lakh VVPAT machines,

-        Mobilising 65 lakh security personnels during election,

-        Bringing Constitutional amendment to some laws,

-        Extending Governors rule in some the states,

-        Some State Assemblies will have to be dissolved early,

-        Building consensus if few states go to polls early.

One Nation One Election Boon or Bane

One contention that is put forward by the opposing parties to the system is that it would endanger the existence regional as voters are likely to vote for the same party at the centre and the state when held together and may get confused. But the best example for contradicting the same is the State of Odisha. Being not too developed as compared to other states and even after having greater rural area, for State Legislative Assembly they voted for Regional Party (BJD) and voted for the National Party (BJP) in the Lok Sabha. It will also help regional parties to focus on national issues and the national parties to focus on the regional issues.

India’s elections are among the world’s most expensive. It cost heavily to the government exchequer. According to the Election Commission of India it costed only them around Rs.3,870 crore for conducting 2014 General Elections.  Simultaneous election will help to curb the expenses incurred by the Central and State Government since the expenses are shared by both of them equally in case of simultaneous elections.

During the elections the Model Code of Conduct comes into force which paralyses the government and its machinery from (i) announcing any financial grants in any form or promises thereof; (ii) laying foundation stones etc., of projects or schemes of any kind except by civil servants; (iii) or make any promise of construction of roads, provision of drinking water facilities, etc.; or (iv) make any ad hoc appointments in Government, Public Undertakings, etc. due to which the working during the elections comes to stand still.

Constitutional Amendments

For the implementation of Simultaneous elections amendments must be brought in some of the provisions of law. They are:

1. Article 83 which deals with the duration of Houses of Parliament.

2. Article 85 which deals with dissolution of Lok Sabha by the President.

3. Article 172 related to duration of State Legislatures.

4. Article 174 related to dissolution of state assemblies.

5. Article 356 which deals with Presidents Rule in the State.

6. The Representation of People Act, 1951 would have to be amended to build in provisions for stability of tenure for both parliament and assemblies.

7. Restructuring the powers and functions of Election Commission of India to facilitate procedure required for simultaneous election.

8. Constructive vote of no-confidence may be adopted and option of limiting the number of such motions during the term of the given House/Assembly may also be considered. Rule 198 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha may suitably be amended.

9. In order to ensure the cycle of simultaneous election is not disrupted, the fresh election may be held for the remainder of the term so that the cycle is not broken. This could be achieved by adding proviso to the Articles 83(2) and 172(1) of the Constitution.

10. 10th schedule of the Constitution related to disqualification on the ground of defection will also be required to be amended to take quick decision.

But the same will be required to be ratified by not less than one-half of the States as an abundant precaution though it doesn’t fall within the purview of Article 368(2).

Options for Synchronisation of Elections

The Law Commission suggested three options in its report, they are:

1) As first option, election to twelve States Assemblies and one Union territory (with legislature), could be synchronised with the elections to the Lok Sabha in the year 2019. And the remaining 16 States and one Union Territory (with legislature) which are due for election towards end of 2021 shall have their new term upto 2024, after which the elections will stand synchronised from 2024.

2) As a second option, elections can be held only twice in five years i.e. 12 States and one Union Territory in mid-2019 and the other 16 States and one Union Territory at the end on 2021 and so on.

3) As a third option, elections to be held in a year are to be held at the same time i.e. the elections will be held once every year.

Conclusion

The idea of Simultaneous Election should be followed so as to save the time, money and efforts of the various governmental institutions. Every time the elections are declared it affects the regular Transfer procedures, exam schedules and various other functions of the concern State. As implementation of the system requires a lot of amendment and political consensus it is beneficial for the country as discussed above and recommended by various committees in their reports from time to time.


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