Insights into Editorial: An idea whose time may not have come
Not even a month after the world’s largest elections in history were over, the debate around “one nation, one election” has been resurrected.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had continued to flag the issue for the last five years, has now called for a meeting on the subject with leaders of other political parties.
Simultaneous elections, or the conducting of state and Lok Elections polls together, has been pushed by PM Modi in his first term as well.
Now with a renewed mandate, it is clear that Modi wants to push this idea hard. Here’s what the scheme means for India and why some people are so opposed to the proposal.
Constitutional Amendments needed for simultaneous Elections;
- Article 83 which deals with the duration of Houses of Parliament.
- Article 85 deals dissolution of Lok Sabha by the President.
- Article 172 related to duration of state legislatures.
- Article 174 related to dissolution of state assemblies.
- Article 356 President’s Rule in the state.
- The Representation of People Act, 1951 Act would have to be amended to build in provisions for stability of tenure for both parliament and assemblies.
Merits of “One Nation One Election”:
Smooth functioning of the Government Machinery: Concerned government deploys huge manpower and machinery to conduct free and fair elections in the country and states. Schools and colleges open on time; teachers and other officials are allowed to work in their respective departments which ease the life of general public.
The biggest logic in the favour of the simultaneous election is the saving of government money. If the country goes for “One Nation One Election” it will save huge money. There are 4120 MLAs in the 31 states & UTs.
The maximum expenditure limit for bigger assemblies is 28 lacs. It means if all the states & UTs go for one time election then its total cost would be around Rs. 11 billion. Usually around 5 states go for polls every year.
Speedy Development Work: It is observed that when the election Model Code of Conduct is in force then the inauguration of new projects does not take place. So one time election will ensure continuity in policies and programmes of the central and state governments.
Check on Black Money: It is an open secret that elections are fought with black money. A huge black turned into white money during elections in the country. So if the elections are conducted throughout the year then there is a possibility that parallel economy will grow in the country.
Efficiency of Governance: If elections are not conducted annually then the government need not to woo general public through lucrative schemes and make caste and religion-based programmes.
Even State and Central Government need not to prepare lucrative budget every year and they can take tough decisions for the betterment of the economy.
Demerits: “One Nation, One Election” idea have the following hurdles:
First, how will “one nation, one election” work in case of premature dissolution of the Lok Sabha.
In such an eventuality, would we also dissolve all State Assemblies? Similarly, what happens when one of the State Assemblies is dissolved? Will the entire country go to polls again?
This sounds unworkable both in theory and in the practice of democracy.
Period of Moral Code of Conduct:
- Second, as for the implementation of schemes of the government during the MCC period, only the new schemes are stopped as these could be tantamount to enticing/bribing voters on the eve of elections.
- All ongoing programmes are unhindered. Even new announcements that are in urgent public interest can be made with the prior approval of the EC.
- Additionally, frequent elections are not so bad for accountability after all.
- They ensure that the politicians have to show their faces to voters regularly.
- Creation of work opportunities at the grass-root level is another big upside.
- The most important consideration is undoubtedly the federal spirit, which, inter alia, requires that local and national issues are not mixed up.
Till the idea achieves political consensus, there are two alternative suggestions to deal with the problems that arise due to frequent elections:
- First, the problem of uncontrolled campaign expenditure can be remedied by introducing a cap on expenditure by political parties.
- State funding of political parties based on their poll performance also is a suggestion worth considering. Private and corporate fund collection may be banned.
- Second, the poll duration can be reduced from two-three months to about 33 to 35 days if more Central armed police forces can be provided.
- The problems associated with a multi-phased election have been getting compounded, with more issues being added to the list with every election.
- Violence, social media-related transgressions and issues related to the enforcement of the MCC which are unavoidable in a staggered election will vanish if the election is conducted in a single day.
All that needs to be done is to raise more battalions. This will also help in job creation.
To conclude, it is undeniable that simultaneous elections would be a far-reaching electoral reform.
If it is to be implemented, there needs to be a solid political consensus, and an agenda of comprehensive electoral reforms should supplement it.
The pros and cons need to be appropriately assessed and practical alternatives sincerely considered. It is good that the government continues to encourage a debate on the subject rather than forcibly pushing it through.
“One Nation One Election” is also about one-time structural change. First align various cycles and then evolve a structure, by consensus, which can serve us for the decades to come. It is an idea whose time has come.