From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not Much
Mains level : Issues with simultaneous elections
Prime Minister once again raised the pitch for “One Nation, One Election” and a single voter list for all to prevent the impact of the model code of conduct on development works due to frequent elections.
Try this question:
Q.Discuss how a common electoral roll and simultaneous elections are ways to save the enormous amount of effort and expenditure on Elections in India. Also discuss the centralizing tendency behind the idea.
Elections in India
- 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. The terms of Legislative Assemblies and the Lok Sabha may not synchronize with one another.
- For instance, Rajasthan faced elections in late 2018, whereas Tamil Nadu will go to elections only in 2021.
- 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 synchronize.
- 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).
Birth of the Idea: A backgrounder
- Simultaneous elections are not new to India. They were the norm until 1967.
- But following dissolution of some Legislative Assemblies in 1968 and 1969 and that of the Lok Sabha in December 1970, elections to State Assemblies and Parliament have been held separately.
- The idea of reverting to simultaneous polls was mooted in the annual report of the Election Commission in 1983.
- The Law Commission’s Report also referred to it in 1999.
- After PM floated the idea once again in 2016, the NITI Aayog prepared a working paper on the subject in January 2017.
What are the proposals under it?
There were two proposals to conduct elections synchronization in two batches.
- One proposal was to make the shift to simultaneous polls in a phased manner, where general elections, of few States and UT may be synchronised in 2019.
- For such a synchronization to happen, besides political consensus and extension of term up to six months in some states, amendments to the Constitution have to be made.
- Elections to the remaining States and UTs with will be synchronised by the end of 2021.
- Thereafter, elections to the Lok Sabha, all the State Legislative Assemblies and Union Territories (with legislatures) will be held simultaneously from 2024.
Advantages of simultaneous elections
- Reduce cost: The cost of an election has two components – one, expenditure incurred by the Election Commission and two, expenditure incurred by the political parties. A large number of government employees and public buildings are diverted from their regular responsibilities for election duties. Supporters of the simultaneous elections argue that it will reduce election expenditure in terms of finance and reduce diversion of human resources for election duties.
- Reduce disruption due to MCC: Model Code of Conduct (MCC) comes into operation during election season. MCC is seen as an obstacle to the government service delivery mechanism. Simultaneous elections may reduce such disruption.
- Reduce populism: During elections, political convenience takes precedence over public interest. To lure voters, political parties concede to popular demands without any consideration to public interest. Simultaneous elections reduce such opportunity for political parties.
- National prespective: Simultaneous election promotes national perspective over the regional perspective. This is important for the unity of the country.
- Strengthen National parties: Since it promotes national perspective, simultaneous elections strengthen national parties. This reduces mushrooming growth of political parties based on narrow vote bank politics.
- Strengthens federalism: Simultaneous elections bring States on par with the Center. If the elections are to be held simultaneously once in five years, the elected state governments cannot be dismissed easily. This reduces the anomalies created by the Article 356 (President’s Rule) of the Indian constitution and hence, it strengthens federalism.
- Stability: The simultaneous election once in five years provides stability to the governments. It allows the government to take difficult and harsh decision in larger public interest.
Arguments against simultaneous elections
- No guarantee that expenditure of the political parties will reduce: Simultaneous elections may reduce the expenditure incurred by the Election Commission. But there is no guarantee that expenditure of the political parties will reduce. Political parties may spend entire fund at once rather than in phases.
- Reduce importance of state elections: Center and States are equal and sovereign within their jurisdiction. Simultaneous elections may reduce the importance of state elections. Thus it affects the concept of federalism.
- Violates Article 83(2) and Article 172 : Article 83(2) and Article 172 of the Constitution requires that the Lok Sabha and State legislatures be in existence for five years from the date of its first meeting, “unless dissolved earlier”. Simultaneous elections ignore this phrase, as there would be no opportunity to dissolve Lok Sabha or State Assemblies.
- Negates NCM: A government can be in power as long as it enjoys the confidence of Parliament. Simultaneous elections can work only if governments last for a fixed tenure of five years regardless of confidence of Parliament. It negates the concept of ‘no confidence motion’ – an important tool for legislative control over the executive.
- Keep Government on toes: Elections are an important part of representative democracy. Simultaneous elections with fixed tenure of five years curtail people’s right to express their confidence or displeasure on the government.
- Ignores diversity: Simultaneous elections will relegate local issues or issues of state importance to the background. This completely ignores the diversity of the country.
- Logistical challenge: Holding simultaneous election once in five years may also face logistical challenges. For the free and fair conduct of the elections, security forces need to be deployed in large numbers. Given the current strength of security personnel, this may be a challenging task.
- There needs to be a consensus and all hands on the deck to see whether the country suits for simultaneous elections.
- All political parties should at least cooperate in debating this issue, once the debate starts, the public opinion can be taken into consideration.
- India being a mature democracy, can then follows the outcome of the deliberation.
- The former vice-president Bhairon Singh Shekhawat proposed a solution. He called for a review of provisions of the no-confidence motion.
- He suggested that no-confidence motion must mandatorily be accompanied by an alternative government formation plan. This prevents premature dissolution of Lok Sabha on account of political instability.
- But critics point out that, this solution will take away people’s right to elect or dismiss a government.
- The constitution of India has essentially prescribed a federal structure of state governance.
- As we are aware that there are several levels of government such as Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha besides, state governments, Municipal Corporations and the Panchayats, which are forms of local governance.
- As a result the entire power is not concentrated with one government.
- But One Nation, One Election can lead to such concentration of power in a single hand.
- So the new government needs to ensure such vast power is not gathered by a single domain through One Nation, One Election.