Maj Gen C P Singh, Retd
In November 2020, Prime Minister Narendra 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. In December 2020, I also penned one article about ‘One Nation One Election’ which a popular government like that of PM Modi, re-elected in 2019 could implement.
It has taken this idea many years to finally start finding favour in the corridors of power. BJP has raised this issue. As expected, the new formed opposition combine I.N.D.I.A. is opposing it, apparently due to political compulsions.
Rising above the party politics and immediate gains, if we consider this idea with ‘Nation First’ attitude, it will be a trend setter for the world to emulate. Also, India as the most vibrant and largest democracy of the world is best suited to establish its need and efficacy.
Historically, elections during the first two decades after Independence were held simultaneously, i.e., during 1951-52, 1957, 1962 and 1967. Dissolution of certain assemblies, followed by the dissolution of the Lok Sabha and general elections in 1971, along with indiscriminate use of Article 356 (President’s Rule) disrupted the schedule of simultaneous elections, forever.
This need emerges from multiple reasons based on the desire to streamline the electoral process and overcome the challenges associated with the existing system. In the present system, India witnesses a repetitive ad recurring electoral cycle where elections at various levels keep taking place all the time. There is hardly a respite of a few months before some election or the other crops up in some part of the country.
The negative consequences of this staggered approach are many, the main being huge and avoidable election-related expenses, frequent political distractions, and severe disruptions in governance and policy formulation.
If the concept is put in place, expenses and administrative commitments will witness drastic cuts. In the general elections of 2019, 610 political parties contested and the expense was approximately Rs.60,000 crores.
Why the Opposition
The following reasons merit consideration:-
- Consensus for Reforms: Political consensus is essential, for the large scale constitutional amendments that are required to bring about this change. It will require acceptance by two third majority in both houses of parliament and also ratification by two third of the states assemblies. This poses a challenge since it will lead to curtailing the terms of some state assemblies.
- 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.
- Legal Scrutiny. All these large scale amendments to the Constitution will result in hundreds of cases landing up in courts. In all probability, these will be challenged in the Supreme Court because the fundamental structure of the constitution cannot be altered.
- Political Gains. Simultaneous elections favour large national parties like BJP. With Congress vastly marginalized, the opposition to BJP is mainly from coalition of regional parties, who feel that they will be at great disadvantage.
- Simultaneous elections threaten the federal character of our democracy.
- In case of a hung Lok Sabha, there is no provision for President’s rule as is the case with the states.
In the lighter vein, if elections are held only once in five years, the politicians will be fairly unemployed. However, this change is possible only if all rise above petty politics and keep an ‘Nation First’ ethos in mind.
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 conduct of an 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.
The first step has been taken by appointing a committee headed by former President Shri 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. Certainly, the learned members of the committee will find answers to all impediments.
India is the world’s largest functional democracy. We can set example of to the world, how such a mammoth exercise can be conceived and delivered. 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 this much needed change. The history will salute their efforts.