In November 2020, PM Modi said: “One Nation, One Election’ isn’t just an issue of deliberation but also a need of the country.” It sounded like a dream come true to all Indians. It has taken this idea many years to finally start finding favours in the corridors of power. BJP may have drawn and dusted this idea just before the elections, while I.N.D.I.A. is opposing it. If we consider this idea rising above the party politics and immediate gains, it will be a trendsetter from the largest democracy, for the world to emulate.
Historically, elections during the first two decades after Independence were held simultaneously, i.e., during 1951-52, 1957, 1962 and 1967. The dissolution of certain assemblies, followed by the dissolution of the Lok Sabha and general elections in 1971, along with the indiscriminate use of Article 356 (President’s Rule) disrupted the schedule of simultaneous elections, forever.
This need emerges from multiple reasons, with a desire to streamline the electoral process and overcome the challenges associated with the existing system. In the present system, India witnesses a recurring electoral cycle, with elections at various levels taking place, at different times. The consequences of this staggered approach are many, including huge and avoidable election-related expenses, frequent political distractions, and severe disruptions in governance and policy formulation. Money and administrative expenses will be drastically cut. In the last general elections of 2019, 610 political parties contested and the expense was approximately Rs.60,000 crores.
Why the opposition
If elections are held only once in five years, the politicians will be fairly unemployed. However, the following reasons merit consideration:-
Consensus for Reforms: Political consensus is essential, for large-scale amendments. Ratification of the amendments by more than half of the states will also be required. This would also need agreement to curtail the terms of some state assemblies. There is a need to rise above petty politics, keeping the ‘Nation First’ ethos in mind.
Political Gains: Simultaneous elections favour large national parties like the BJP. With Congress vastly marginalized, the opposition to BJP is mainly from a coalition of regional parties, who feel that they will be at a great disadvantage.
Amendments to the Constitution: Besides, a large number of amendments to laws, rules and regulations would need to be carried out, making the task very arduous, if not impossible.
Legal Scrutiny: All these large-scale amendments to the Constitution will result in hundreds of cases landing up in courts as these will be considered against the basic constitutional fabric. In all probability, these will be challenged in the Supreme Court because the fundamental structure of the Constitution cannot be altered.
Simultaneous elections threaten the federal character of our democracy.
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In the case of a hung Lok Sabha, there is no provision for the President’s rule like in the case of states.
The first step has been taken by appointing a committee, headed by former President Ram Nath Kovind, to examine the possibility of simultaneous elections. The concept must be navigated through the intricacies of federalism, as it necessitates cooperation and consensus among states, each with its unique political dynamics and agenda. The implementation could be carried out in phases. However, the implementation of such a reform is far from straightforward. It involves not only practical challenges but also complex legal and constitutional considerations. Certainly, the learned members of the committee will find answers to all such impediments.
Simultaneous elections in a country of approx 100 crore voters will be a logistic nightmare. There will be massive requirements of staff, manpower, police forces and other logistics for the conduct of this event of such gigantic proportions. Additional EVMs and VVPAT will have to be purchased, deployed in time, used and warehoused for the next elections. The Election Commission has pegged the additional expenditure at approx Rs. 10000 Crores.
India is the world’s oldest and largest functional democracy. We can set an example to the world, of how such a mammoth exercise can be conceived and delivered by the mother of democracy. A meeting of minds is the first step, followed by harmonious Coordination between the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary to realize this dream. This brilliant idea appears to be challenging, at present. However, those who dare to dream big have the perseverance to fulfil their dreams and pioneer the change. The well-meaning citizens of this country look up to our dynamic PM and learned politicians, to be the harbinger of Change. History will salute their efforts.