One Nation, One Election: Prospects and Challenges

Why simultaneous elections would militate against federalism


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Simultaneous elections

Mains level : One nation one election analysis, impact on the federal structure

What’s the news?

  • The next Lok Sabha election is scheduled to be held before June 16, 2024. Should the concept of simultaneous elections be realized and implemented, it would necessitate the shortening of the terms of legislative assemblies across many states. This alignment could potentially require term extensions or curtailments in 2029.

Central idea

  • The recent move by the Union government to establish a committee to explore the feasibility of conducting simultaneous elections to various tiers of governance in India has sparked a significant debate. While the idea of simultaneous elections promises cost savings, it also raises crucial questions about its impact on the federal structure of Indian democracy and the unique roles of different governance tiers.

The Specificity of Governance Tiers

  • India’s governance structure involves multiple tiers, each with distinct roles and responsibilities.
  • Representatives in Indian Governance Tiers:
  • Lok Sabha Representatives: 543
  • Assembly Legislators: Over 4,100
  • Urban Local Ward Representatives: 89,194
  • Elected Panchayat Representatives: Nearly 31.89 lakh (across village panchayats, panchayat unions, and district panchayats)

The cost-saving argument for simultaneous elections

  • Cost Parity: The 2018 Law Commission report claims that the expenses for Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in any state are approximately equal, forming the basis for the cost-saving argument.
  • Reduced Duplication: Simultaneous elections aim to reduce duplication of administrative efforts, such as voter registration, setting up polling booths, and deploying security personnel, which can lead to cost savings by optimizing resource utilization.
  • Efficient Resource Allocation: Holding elections together allows for more efficient allocation of resources like electoral staff, transportation, and security, as they can be shared across different levels of elections.
  • Streamlined Campaigns: Political parties and candidates can potentially save on campaign costs when elections are synchronized, as they need to conduct campaigns once for multiple levels of government rather than separately.
  • Economies of Scale: The argument posits that simultaneous elections could leverage economies of scale, leading to cost savings across various aspects of the electoral process.

Implications for Federalism

  • Subsuming Governance Tiers: Simultaneous elections could lead to various governance tiers’ issues being bundled into a single electoral mandate. This might require voters to prioritize a wide range of concerns within a single election, potentially blurring the roles and responsibilities of each governance tier.
  • Federalism Undermined: Such subsumption has the potential to undermine the principles of federalism in India, which involve a clear division of powers between central and state governments, each addressing specific issues.
  • Distinct Roles of Tiers: Federalism recognizes that local issues are best addressed locally, while national issues are the central government’s domain. Simultaneous elections may blur these distinctions, forcing voters to prioritize certain issues due to the single-mandate nature of the elections.
  • Local Autonomy: Local self-governance through municipalities and panchayats could face challenges as simultaneous elections combine local and national issues. This may dilute the focus on local governance.
  • Unique Needs Ignored: India’s governance structure is designed to address the unique needs of citizens at different levels. For instance, local concerns like garbage management are meant to be handled locally. Simultaneous elections might not allow voters to adequately prioritize such local concerns.

Way forward

  • In-Depth Federalism Assessment: Prioritize a comprehensive assessment of the federal aspects of Indian democracy before proceeding with simultaneous elections. This assessment should analyze the potential impact on federalism, the distinct roles of governance tiers, and the preservation of local autonomy.
  • Transparent Public Discourse: Encourage transparent public discourse and awareness campaigns to ensure that citizens are well-informed about the implications of simultaneous elections. Engage with citizens, experts, and political parties to gather diverse perspectives and concerns.
  • Consultation with State Governments: Conduct extensive consultations with state governments and political parties to understand how simultaneous elections may affect state autonomy and governance. Address the concerns and feedback of state-level stakeholders.
  • Pilot Projects: Consider implementing simultaneous elections on a trial basis in select regions or states to assess the practical challenges and benefits. Pilot projects can provide valuable insights into the feasibility and impact of such a significant electoral reform.
  • Legal and Constitutional Framework: Develop a robust legal and constitutional framework that explicitly accommodates the principles of federalism and the unique roles of different governance tiers. Ensure that the framework safeguards the autonomy of local bodies and addresses the specific needs of each governance level.


  • While the idea of simultaneous elections in India offers the promise of cost savings, it should be approached with careful consideration of its impact on federalism and the specificity of governance tiers. The committee, led by former President Ramnath Kovind, must conduct a thorough analysis of these federal aspects to ensure that the essence of Indian democracy, with its multifaceted governance structure, is preserved and enhanced.

Also Read:

Govt forms committee on simultaneous elections: What is the idea, and the arguments around it?

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