The Case for One Nation, One Election

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Why in News?

  • In a nation as vast and diverse as India, the frequency of elections poses significant challenges to governance and development.
  • Therefore, it becomes crucial to delve into the multifaceted aspects of the proposition to hold simultaneous elections, exploring historical precedents, pressing problems, debunking myths, and charting a way forward.

The Historical Context of Indian Democracy and Simultaneous Elections

  • Simultaneous Elections in Early Indian Democracy
    • India's journey towards democratic governance began in the aftermath of its independence in 1947 and central to this framework was the concept of periodic elections to determine the composition of legislative bodies at both the national and state levels.
    • The nascent years of Indian democracy witnessed simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and various state assemblies.
    • The inaugural general elections held in 1951-52 set the precedent for concurrent polls, a practice that persisted through subsequent electoral cycles in 1957, 1962, and 1967.
    • During this period, India successfully managed to synchronize its electoral processes, demonstrating the feasibility and efficacy of holding simultaneous elections.
  • How Synchronised Electoral Processes Benefitted
    • The concurrent conduct of elections during this era was not merely a logistical convenience but also a reflection of the cohesive vision of the nation's founding fathers.
    • By aligning the electoral calendars of the central and state governments, India aimed to foster unity and coherence in its democratic institutions.
    • This synchronised approach helped minimise disruptions to governance and provided a stable platform for policy formulation and implementation.
  • Transition to Fragmented Electoral Schedule
    • However, as India's democratic experiment evolved, the simultaneous conduct of elections gradually gave way to a fragmented electoral schedule.
    • Various factors, including constitutional amendments, political realignments, and regional dynamics, contributed to the divergence in electoral timelines.
    • Consequently, India transitioned to a model where elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies were often held at different intervals, leading to a disjointed electoral landscape.

A Detailed Analysis of Challenges Posed by Frequent Elections in India

  • Governance Problem
    • Frequent elections in India pose significant challenges that impact various aspects of governance and development.
    • These challenges stem from the asynchronous nature of electoral cycles, leading to a range of issues that hinder effective governance and strain resources.
  • Continuous Rise in Election Expenses
    • The staggering rise in election expenses over the years underscores one of the primary challenges posed by frequent elections.
    • The cost of conducting elections has escalated substantially, with the expenses for the Lok Sabha elections tripling between 2009 and 2014.
    • Despite the absence of data for the 2019 elections, it is anticipated that the costs continued to rise.
    • These escalating expenses strain the financial resources of the government, diverting funds that could otherwise be allocated to critical developmental projects and welfare initiatives.
  • Impact by Prolonged Enforcement of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC)
    • Moreover, the prolonged enforcement of theMCC due to asynchronous elections exacerbates the challenges faced by governance machinery.
    • The MCC, which is enforced once elections are announced, restricts the government's ability to initiate new policies, programs, or developmental projects.
    • Consequently, the governance machinery is often paralysed, unable to undertake essential activities during the election period.
    • This leads to delays in crucial decision-making processes and hampers the delivery of public services, adversely affecting the welfare of citizens.
  • Challenges Due to Reallocation of Manpower and Human Resource
    • Additionally, frequent elections necessitate the deployment of significant human resources, further straining the administrative machinery.
    • Law enforcement agencies, such as the CRPF and police personnel, are mobilised to ensure the security and conduct of elections.
    • Moreover, government employees from various departments and schools are reassigned from their regular duties to assist with election-related tasks.
    • This reallocation of manpower disrupts the functioning of essential services and diverts human resources away from core governance activities, impacting overall efficiency and service delivery.

Myths Surrounding One Nation, One Election

  • Simultaneous Elections Would Marginalise Local Issues
    • One prevalent myth suggests that simultaneous elections would render local issues irrelevant, thereby undermining regional representation and autonomy.
    • Proponents of this view argue that elections for state assemblies and the Lok Sabha are fought on different issues, with regional parties focusing on local concerns while national parties prioritize broader, national issues.
    • However, empirical evidence contradicts this notion.
    • An analysis of vote share percentages from past elections reveals that voters differentiate between state and national issues, irrespective of the timing of elections.
    • For instance, the BJP's vote share in state assembly polls conducted simultaneously with the 2019 general elections was lower than its performance in the latter, indicating that voters distinguish between state and national concerns.
    • Thus, the fear that simultaneous elections would marginalize local issues is unfounded and misleading.
  • Threat to Federal Democracy
    • Critics argue that synchronising elections would centralise power and undermine the federal structure of governance, infringing upon states' autonomy.
    • However, historical precedent and constitutional principles suggest otherwise.
    • India's founding fathers envisaged a robust federal democracy, wherein states enjoy considerable autonomy within the framework of a unified nation.
    • The simultaneous conduct of elections during the early years of Indian democracy did not compromise federalism but rather facilitated administrative efficiency and national cohesion.
    • Moreover, synchronising elections does not entail a shift towards a presidential form of government; instead, it streamlines the electoral process without altering the fundamental principles of India's parliamentary democracy.

Way Forward

  • Legislative Amendments and Synchronisation Efforts
    • One proposed approach involves legislative amendments to mandate simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies.
    • This would require constitutional amendments and statutory changes to synchronize the electoral calendars of the central and state governments.
    • Additionally, efforts would be needed to harmonise the legal framework governing elections, including the Model Code of Conduct, campaign financing regulations, and electoral dispute resolution mechanisms.
  • Unified Voter List and Technological Integration
    • Furthermore, the creation of a single, unified voter list has been proposed to streamline voter registration and eliminate discrepancies between the lists maintained by the Election Commission of India (ECI) and state election commissions.
    • This would entail a comprehensive data integration effort to consolidate voter information from various sources and ensure accuracy and completeness.
    • Leveraging technology and data analytics could facilitate this process, enabling real-time updates and verification of voter records.
  • Pilot Projects and Phased Implementation
    • Additionally, pilot projects and phased implementation strategies could be employed to test the feasibility and efficacy of simultaneous elections in select states or regions.
    • This would allow for practical experimentation, evaluation of outcomes, and refinement of processes before scaling up to a national level.
    • Learning from international best practices and experiences of countries that have successfully implemented simultaneous elections can also inform India's approach and implementation strategy.

Conclusion

  • The proposition of holding simultaneous elections in India presents a viable solution to the myriad challenges posed by frequent electoral cycles.
  • By streamlining the electoral process, India can enhance governance efficiency, optimize resource allocation, and bolster democratic principles.
  • Embracing this reform requires informed discourse and concerted efforts at both the national and state levels, ultimately paving the way for a more robust and resilient democracy.

Q1) What is the concept of One Nation, One Election in India?

One Nation, One Election proposes to synchronise the timing of all elections in India, including those for the Lok Sabha (Parliament) and state legislative assemblies, to be held simultaneously.

Q2) What are the potential benefits of implementing One Nation, One Election in India?

Implementing One Nation, One Election could potentially save significant time and resources, reduce the influence of money and muscle power in elections, minimise policy disruptions, and enhance governance efficiency by allowing elected representatives to focus on developmental agendas rather than perpetual campaigning.


Source: The Indian Express