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One Nation - One Election

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Inspiration Study Circle, Dehradun Explained- “One Nation, One Election”

One Nation, One Election’ is a proposal under consideration by the Government of India to harmonize elections to the Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Indian Parliament) and all state assemblies. It wants to hold these elections simultaneously, on the same day, or within a specific time frame.

Campaign and Proposal by the Government of India

From 1951-52 to 1967, elections to the House of the People and state assemblies were held mostly simultaneously, after which the cycle was broken. Now, elections are held almost every year and even within a year at different times, resulting in large-scale. Expenditure by the government and other stakeholders, diversion of security forces and other election officials from their primary duties for a significant period, disruption of development work due to prolonged application of the Code of Conduct, etc.

The Law Commission of India observed in its 170th Report on Election Law Reforms: “This cycle of annual and off-season elections should be put to an end. We should return to a situation where the Lok Sabha and all assembly elections are held simultaneously. The rule should be that ‘Elections should be held once in five years for the Lok Sabha and all the Legislative Assemblies.

The department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law, and Justice has also examined the ‘Possibility of holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha (Lok Sabha) and State Assemblies’ submitted in December 2015 in its 79th report. matter and recommended an alternative and practical method of holding simultaneous elections in two phases.

Considering the above and national interests, it is desirable to hold simultaneous elections in the country. The Government of India formed this high-level committee to study the issue of simultaneous elections and recommend holding simultaneous elections in the country.

In August 2018, the Law Commission of India issued a draft report on simultaneous elections. It is said that to hold the general election simultaneously, amendments to the Constitution, the People’s Representative Act 1951, and the rules of procedure of the People’s Assembly and the State Assembly must be carried out. It stated that the Constitution, the Representation of the People’s Act 1951, and the Rules of Procedure of Lok Sabha and State Assemblies require appropriate amendments to allow simultaneous elections. The commission also recommended getting approval from at least 50% of the states. However, on the merits of the simultaneous poll, the commission will save public money, reduce the burden on administrative organizations and security forces, ensure the timely implementation of government policies, and focus on administrative development.

History of the Motion

  1. The main idea of ​​One People, One Election is to synchronize the timing of Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections in all states to reduce the frequency of elections across the country.
  2. The concept lasted until 1967, but it was disrupted for various reasons, including government defection, resignations, and dissolutions. The cycle was first broken in 1959 when the Center invoked Article 356 to dissolve the then-Kerala government.
  3. As a result, several Legislative Assemblies were dissolved after 1960 due to party differences and infighting, leading to elections for the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies.
  4. Currently, the assembly elections in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh, and Odisha are held along with the Lok Sabha elections.
  5. The idea of ​​holding simultaneous elections was initiated in 1999 by the Legal Group headed by BP Jeevan Reddy.

High-Level Committee

On September 2, 2023, the Government of India issued a notification appointing a high-level committee to investigate the issue of simultaneous elections. This committee has been constituted under the chairmanship of former President of India Ram Nath Kovind. Other members of this committee are:

The committee works with national and state political parties and seeks public and legal input on pending proposals. The proposal has raised concerns about its impact on India’s democratic and federal structure.

Advantages of ‘One Nation, One Election’ (ONOE)

  1. ONOE will enable the government to focus on governance once the elections are over. During the elections, everyone’s attention is entirely focused on these elections because no one wants to lose. There is virtual paralysis of administration at various levels. This reflects very badly on India’s growth prospects.
  2. The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) comes into force only after the election is announced by the Election Commission (EC). Due to MCC, no new policy decisions are taken during elections. Hence, major policy decisions are delayed.
  3. Even when no new policy decision is required, the implementation of ongoing projects gets derailed during the election period as the political executive as well as government officials will be engaged in election duties neglecting routine administration.
  4. If the elections are held simultaneously, the election expenses of the political parties can be drastically reduced. There will be no duplication of fundraising. This will save the public and the business community from being repeatedly pressured for election donations.
  5. The same electoral roll may be used for all elections. This will save tremendous time and money spent on updating the electoral roll. It will also make it easier for citizens as they will not have to worry about their names missing from the electoral roll once they are registered.
  6. Many police personnel and paramilitary forces are deployed to ensure the peaceful conduct of the elections. This involves massive reconstruction, involving huge costs. This kind of deployment can be minimized with simultaneous elections.
  7. Holding elections within a certain period may reduce horse-trading by elected representatives, which is a concern even with anti-defection laws in place. Holding elections at fixed intervals may make it difficult for them to switch parties or form alliances for personal gain.
  8. Frequent elections result in governments making policy decisions to sway voters in every election. While this cannot be stopped completely, it will reduce the frequency with which governments have to declare independence.

Challenges with ‘One Nation, One Election’ (ONOE)

  1. ONOE’s plan raises serious questions like, ‘What will happen if the Central or State Government collapses mid-term?’ and ‘Will elections be held again in each state or will the President’s rule be introduced?’
  2. It will pose logistical challenges in terms of the availability and security of electronic voting machines, personnel, and other resources. The EC may face difficulties in managing such a large exercise.
  3. The idea of ​​ONOE is not concerned with the concept of ‘federalism’ as it is founded on the assumption that the nation is “one” which contradicts the content of Article 1 which envisages India as a “Union of States”.
  4. The current form of recurrent elections can be seen as beneficial in a democracy as it allows voters to make their voices heard more often. Since the underlying issues of national and state elections are different, the existing framework prevents the mixing of issues, ensuring greater accountability.
  5. Various estimates by the Election Commission, NITI Aayog show the cost of conducting all state and parliamentary elections in a five-year cycle. Simultaneous elections will increase the cost of setting up several EVMs and VVPATs. So, it is not a good idea to amend the constitution to save Rs 5 per voter in a year.
  6. There is economic research to suggest that such election spending by parties and candidates benefits the economy and government tax revenues by boosting private consumption and serving as a stimulus.

High-level Committee submits its report

“Simultaneous Elections Core to Aspirational India”

The High-level Committee on Simultaneous Elections constituted under the Chairmanship of Shri Ram Nath Kovind, former President of India, met the Hon’ble President of India, Shrimati Droupadi Murmu, and submitted its Report. The Report, comprising 18,626 pages, is an outcome of extensive consultations with stakeholders, experts, and research work over 191 days, since its constitution on 2 September 2023.

The other members of the Committee were Shri Amit Shah, Union Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Cooperation, Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad, former Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Shri N.K. Singh, former Chairman, of the 15th Finance Commission, Dr. Subhash C. Kashyap, former Secretary General, Lok Sabha, Shri Harish Salve, Senior Advocate, and Shri Sanjay Kothari, former Chief Vigilance Commissioner. Shri Arjun Ram Meghwal, Minister of State (Independent Charge) Ministry of Law and Justice was a Special Invitee and Dr. Niten Chandra was the Secretary of the HLC.

The Committee held extensive consultations to understand the views of different stakeholders. 47 political parties submitted their views and suggestions, out of which 32 supported simultaneous elections. Many political parties had extensive discussions with the HLC on this matter. In response to a public notice published in newspapers in all the States and Union territories, 21,558 responses were received from citizens from all over India. 80 percent of the respondents supported simultaneous elections.  Experts on law such as four former Chief Justices of India and twelve former Chief Justices of major High Courts, four former Chief Election Commissioners of India, eight State Election Commissioners, and the Chairman of the Law Commission of India were invited by the Committee for interaction in person. Views of the Election Commission of India were also sought.

After careful consideration of all suggestions and viewpoints, the Committee recommends a two-step approach to lead to simultaneous elections. As the first step, simultaneous elections will be held for the House of the People and the State Legislative Assemblies. In the second step, elections to the Municipalities and the Panchayats will be synchronized with the House of the People and the State Legislative Assemblies in such a way that Municipalities and Panchayats elections are held within a hundred days of holding elections to the House of the People and the State Legislative Assemblies.

The Committee also recommends that there should be a single electoral roll and Electoral Photo Identity Cards (EPIC) for use in elections to all three tiers of Government.

In tune with its mandate to explore the mechanism for simultaneous elections, and keeping in view the existing framework of the Constitution, the Committee has crafted its recommendations in such a way that they are following the spirit of the Constitution of India and would require bare minimum amendments to the Constitution.

Upon all-inclusive deliberations, the Committee concludes that its recommendations will significantly enhance the transparency, inclusivity, ease, and confidence of the voters. Overwhelming support for holding simultaneous elections will spur the development process and social cohesion, deepen the foundations of our democratic rubric, and realize the aspirations of India, that is Bharat.

Statements by the ‘Kovind Report’ on ONOE

  1. The report highlighted that Articles 83 and 172 say that the term shall be five years and no longer, but it does not fix the minimum number of terms at five years. The report said that free and fair elections, the rule of law, and an independent judiciary are the most important constitutional qualities. Concurrent elections “do not affect the rights of citizens under Part III or any other feature such as the rule of law or a free and independent judiciary”.
  2. The report argues that simultaneous elections instead make the best use of the time and resources of those involved in the election process. These lead to a reduction in “the role of finance, which is one of the biggest concerns about free and fair elections.”
  3. Article 327 provides that the Congress “shall undertake all matters relating to or relating to the election of either House of State Legislature, or both Houses or any State Legislature, including the preparation of electoral rolls and the delimitation of constituencies.” Authorized to enact regulations on other matters necessary to ensure the constitution of the constituency and its House of Representatives. “
  4. On the other hand, Article 328 provides that states can legislate for parliamentary elections, but only to the extent that it is not covered by an Act of Parliament.
  5. According to the report, simultaneous elections do not affect the rights granted to the states in the Constitution.
  6. Many political parties say that the system associated with “one country, one election” does not have provisions to solve the problems of dysfunctional parliaments/legislatures.
  7. The report describes the Sarkaria Committee that looked into the issue and made recommendations to address the challenges. If the majority is not obtained, the governor can follow the same order of priority:
  8. To form the government, the coalition must be invited before the elections.
  9. Invite the largest party to stake its claim with the support of others, including independents.
  10. It is also possible to invite a coalition of political parties after the elections.
  11. A coalition government after the elections in which some parties within the coalition form the government and other parties support the government from outside.
  12. In the continuation of this report, it is stated that the government, the leadership of the parliament, and the elected executives must have the trust of the parliament.

Disclaimer: the above-mentioned article is based on information from the Press Information Bureau of India, the Indian Express, and Wikipedia.

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